Emile de Antonio’s 1983 film, In the King of Prussia, is about the trial of the Plowshares Eight. The judge is played by Martin Sheen and the defendants are played by themselves. It’s available for viewing on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUph8GWFupE
VICE News Video: What Really Happened at Standing Rock, Featuring Chase Iron Eyes
We worked with VICE News to produce this powerful episode of "I Was There." Featuring an exclusive interview with Chase Iron Eyes, the episode describes the NoDAPL protests in depth and in relation to the present moment.
View video at:
Denver Black Lives
On September 17, six protest leaders, including four members of the Party of Socialism and Liberation, were arrested in Denver, Colorado in a coordinated police action. Those arrested are now being threatened with a litany of bogus felony charges, including “kidnapping.” Four of the arrested individuals—Russel Ruch, Lillian House, Joel Northam, and Eliza Lucero—are protest leaders who have denounced the crimes of the Colorado police, most notably the racist murder of Elijah McClain. The repression against these activists, and many others, is nothing short of police-state retribution. As a PSL statement noted,
“This attack on the Denver anti-racist movement and the PSL is part of a concerted national assault on the Black Lives Matter movement, an attack driven directly from the White House, from Governor’s mansions, and from local police chiefs and police departments around the country.”
It is clear from the manner of the arrests that the Denver area police are trying to punish and intimidate activists. Russel Ruch, for instance, was followed to Home Depot and arrested in the parking lot; Lillian House was surrounded by five police cars as she was driving; and a S.W.A.T. team was sent to Joel Northam’s home. According to the 30-page long arrest affidavits, the police used livestream footage, call transcripts, and social media posts to build a case against those arrested. These coordinated arrests, which utilized both surveillance and brute force, aim to instill fear in every Denver area activist. “Protest, and you could be next” is the message being sent. And the absurd list of felony charges, known as “charge stacking,” means the arrested activists could be facing years, if not decades, in prison.
The arrest of these protest leaders in Denver are part of a larger nationwide crack-down on the Black Lives Matter movement. Across the country, protesters have been snatched off the streets by the police or federal forces in unmarked vehicles. In New York City, the NYPD used facial-recognition software to find and harass a Black Lives Matter activist. And earlier this month, in Washington, federal marshals gunned down Portland activist Michael Reinoehl without warning as he walked to his car.
Left Voice denounces the attempts to repress or otherwise intimidate anti-racist, anti-police activists. It is unacceptable that the state, under direction from both Republican and Democratic Party leaders, targets and intimidates activists fighting for racial justice, while the murderers of Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor and many more walk free. The real threat to public safety can be found in every police precinct, every city hall, and every seat of political power.
Drop the charges against Denver PSL activists—Free all the arrested protesters!
To sign the PSL’s petition to have the charges dropped, click here:
To donate to the PSL’s legal defense, click here:
— Left Voice, September 18, 2020
History, Great Britain, and Julian Assange
Below are the comments Clifford D. Conner made at a September 8, 2020 press conference in front of the British consulate in New York City. Conner is an historian and author of Jean Paul Marat: Tribune of the French Revolution and The Tragedy of American Science: From Truman to Trump. The court in Britain is holding hearings on the Trump administration’s request to have Julian Assange, the Australian editor, publisher and founder of WikiLeaks, extradited. Assange would be tried in a Virginia court on 17 counts of espionage and one count of conspiracy to commit a computer crime. If convicted, he could face up to 175 years in prison.
In 2010 Assange had the audacity to post a video showing a U.S. Apache helicopter indiscriminately murdering a dozen civilians and two Reuters’ journalists in the streets of Baghdad.
Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower, testified in court on September 16 that Assange could not receive a fair trial in the United States. When he pointed out that the Collateral Murder video was clearly a war crime, the prosecution maintained that Assange was not wanted by Washington for it but for publishing documents without redacting names. Ellsberg pointed out that when he leaked the Pentagon Papers, he did not redact a single name.
Assange’s lawyer has since informed the London court that in 2017 former Republican U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher and Charles Johnson, a far-right political activist, relayed Trump’s offer to pardon Assange if he provided the source for the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails. This was described to Assange as a “win-win” situation for all involved.
A National Committee to Defend Assange and Civil Liberties, chaired by Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and Alice Walker has been set up. For further information, go to: www.facebook.com/CommitteeToDefendJulianAssange. The press conference was organized by the New York City Free Assange Committee. The press conference was organized by the New York City Free Assange Committee: NYCFreeAssange.org
—Dianne Feeley for The Editors, Against the Current
Comments by Clifford D. Conner
I am here at the British Consulate today to protest the incarceration and mistreatment of Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison in Great Britain, to demand that you immediately release him, and above all, to demand that you NOT extradite Julian Assange to the United States.
As a historian who has written extensively on the case of the most persecuted journalist of the 18th century, Jean Paul Marat, I am in a position to make historical comparisons, and in my judgement, Julian Assange is both the most unjustly persecuted journalist of the 21st century and arguably the most important journalist of the 21st century.
Julian Assange is being hounded and harassed and threatened with life in prison by the United States government because he dared to publish the truth about American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan for the whole world to see. This persecution of Julian Assange is an assault on the fundamental principles of journalistic freedom.
The sociopathic Donald Trump and his accomplice, Attorney General William Barr, are demanding that you deliver Assange to them to face false charges of espionage. Every honest observer in the world recognizes Trump and Barr as utterly incapable of acting in good faith. If they succeed in suppressing Julian Assange’s right to publish, it will be a devastating precedent for journalists and publishers of news everywhere—and above all, for the general public, who will lose access to the information necessary to maintaining a democratic society.
If you allow yourselves to become co-conspirators in this crime, History will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.
Last November, more than 60 doctors from all over the world wrote an open letter to the British government saying that Julian Assange’s health was so bad that he could die if he weren’t moved from Belmarsh Prison, where he was being held, to a hospital, immediately. Your government chose to ignore that letter and he was not hospitalized, then or later. History will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.
Of all crimes against humanity, the most unforgivable is torture. No nation that perpetrates torture has the right to call itself civilized. United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, has unequivocally characterized Julian Assange’s treatment in Belmarsh Prison as torture. History will neither forget nor forgive that terrible moral transgression.
Furthermore, the exposure of the widespread use of torture by the United States military and the CIA at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, at Guantánamo Bay, and at so-called “black sites” all over the world, absolutely disqualifies the United States from sitting in moral judgement of anybody. If you deliver Julian Assange into the hands of torturers, history will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.
So, I join together today with human rights advocates and advocates of journalistic freedom around the world.
I stand with the Committee to Protect Journalists, which declared: “For the sake of press freedom, Julian Assange must be defended.”
I stand with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which said that the attempt to prosecute Julian Assange is “a worrying step on the slippery slope to punishing any journalist the Trump administration chooses to deride as ‘fake news’.”
And I stand with the ACLU, which said: “Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for WikiLeaks’publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations.”
History will not only record the names of the countries that collaborate in this travesty of justice, but also the names of the individuals—the judges, the prosecutors, the diplomats, and the politicians—who aid and abet the crime. If you, as individuals, choose to ally yourselves with the likes of Donald Trump and William Barr, be prepared for your names to be chained to theirs in infamy, in perpetuity.
History will certainly absolve Julian Assange, and it certainly will not absolve his persecutors.
—Against the Current, November/December 2020
Call for the immediate release of
Syiaah Skylit from CDCR custody!
Sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/gavin-newsom-call-for-the-immediate-release-of-syiaah-skylit-from-cdcr-custody-blacktranslivesmatter?recruiter=915876972&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=abi_gmail&utm_campaign=address_book&recruited_by_id=7d48b720-ecea-11e8-a770-29edb03b51cc
Syiaah Skylit is a Black transgender woman currently incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP). Syiaah has been a victim of multiple acts of brutal, senseless violence at KVSP at the hands of prison staff and others in custody. Many of these attacks are in retaliation for her advocacy for herself and other trans women.
Syiaah’s life is currently at risk due to racist, transmisogynist violence at the hands of the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCr). While all the offending officers should be fired, this isn’t about a couple of bad apples. We have centuries of evidence that prison will never be safe — for Black people, for trans people, and especially not for Black trans women.
“I’m not going to make it out of this prison alive if I’m left here any longer.”
— Syiaah Skylit, June 2020
While incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison between 2018 and the present, prison staff have subjected Syiaah to severe and persistent physical, sexual, and psychological abuse (see below for examples, with content warnings). Staff at Kern Valley State Prison are also responsible for the 2013 death of Carmen Guerrero, a transgender woman who was forced to be housed with an individual who made it clear to officers that he would kill Ms. Guerrero if he was celled with her. Earlier this year, that individual was given the death penalty for killing Ms. Guerrero just eight hours after CDCR officers forced them to cell together.
Facing immediate danger, Syiaah has repeatedly asked to be transferred to a women’s facility and CDCR has repeatedly denied her requests. We demand that Governor Newsom and CDCR immediately release Syiaah to her community and family before she falls further victim to the lethal danger that transgender people face in prison.
[Content note: assault, sexual violence, anti-Black racism, transmisogny]
While in CDCR custody between 2018 and the present, Syiaah has:
- Been physically attacked by CDCR staff multiple times;
- Been threatened with sexual assault with a baton by CDCR staff;
- Been forced by CDCR staff to parade through the yard naked from the waist down;
- Been stripped naked by CDCR staff and left overnight in her cell without clothes, blankets, or a mattress;
- Been attacked by other people in custody who admitted that CDCR staff directed them to do so;
- Had her property stolen and destroyed by CDCR staff;
- Been maced in the face and thrown in a cage after reporting an assault;
- Been intentionally placed on the same yard as an individual she testified against who is facing attempted murder charges for his assault of a transgender woman. As Syiaah feared, this individual violently attacked her as revenge. This man was then allowed to attack a gay man after attacking Syiaah.
- Been intentionally placed on the same yard as individuals with histories of attacking trans women and other LGBTQI+ people, in spite of her pleas to be placed separately;
- Been thrown in administrative segregation after being the victim of an attack;
- Has had all of her recent documented complaints of discrimination and violence rejected under false pretenses;
- Has had contact with her legal representatives restricted to one phone call a week;
- Has been humiliated and discriminated against for going on a hunger strike as a form of protest;
- Has expressed numerous, documented concerns for her safety and had them blatantly ignored.
In spite of the constant violence Syiaah continues to survive, she continues to demonstrate her resilience and dedication to learning and growing. She has earned certifications in many educational and vocational programs and support groups.
We as Syiaah’s community and chosen family are ready to support her with a safe and successful reentry plan if Governor Newsom uses his executive powers to grant her clemency. Organizations that can offer Syiaah comprehensive reentry support including housing and employment upon her release include TGI Justice Project, Transgender Advocacy Group (TAG), and Medina Orthwein LLP.
You can read more about Syiaah's story in this article by Victoria Law for Truthout as well as this one by Dustin Gardiner for the SF Chronicle.
Please sign and share this petition to #FreeSyiaah and declare #BlackTransLivesMatter!
Please also check out our social media toolkit to support Syiaah!
[Please do not donate as prompted after signing, as the money goes to change.org and not to any cause associated with Syiaah.]
Art by Micah Bazant at Forward Together.
Write to Kevin “Rashid” Johnson:
Kevin Johnson #264847
Wabash Valley Correctional Facility
6908 S. Old U.S. HWY 41, P.O. Box 500
Carlisle, IN 47838
Snowden vindicated by court ruling – time to drop
Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the NSA telephone surveillance program revealed by Edward Snowden was illegal and likely unconstitutional. This ruling should finally end any remaining debate on whether Snowden’s actions constituted whistleblowing, and on his necessity of going to the press. The question now is how to remedy the legal and ethical dilemma he was placed into. It’s time to either drop his charges or pardon him.
The court’s ruling validates Snowden on multiple levels. It settles beyond doubt that his belief in the illegality of the programs he witnessed was reasonable. The panel of judges ruled that the mass telephone surveillance conducted under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act was illegal. And while they refrained from issuing a ruling on the Constitutional challenge, they strongly suggested that the program was in violation of the Fourth Amendment. They ruled that the government’s claims about the effectiveness of the surveillance had been lies, and that its legal theory about the necessity of mass collection of phone data was “unprecedented and unwarranted.”
Legally, a whistleblower does not need to ultimately be proved correct about the concerns they report. If they simply have a “reasonable belief” their employer is breaking the law, they are entitled to whistleblower protections. While any plain reading of the Fourth Amendment and the FISA statutes should have sufficed to prove a reasonable concern, this ruling is beyond sufficient affirmation that Snowden’s concern was “objectively reasonable”.
While he should have been able to make a protected whistleblower disclosure based on such concerns, those channels were not a realistic option. As an outside contractor, he would not have been guaranteed protection under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA) statute in place at that time. Critics of Snowden also conveniently ignore the history of other NSA employees who blew the whistle on these programs before him. The internal channels were used to “catch and kill” the complaints of at least four previous surveillance whistleblowers, placing them – and even the Congressional intelligence committee staffer they went to – under criminal leak investigations. Snowden saw, for example, the punitive treatment of NSA whistleblower, Thomas Drake. Drake went through every conceivable internal channel: his boss, the NSA Inspector General (IG), the Defense Department IG, and the House & Senate Intel Committees. Not only did they fail to redress his grievances, many acted to further punish him: ignored his concerns, marginalized him, forced him out, blacklisted him, and ultimately drove his failed criminal prosecution.
Snowden correctly assessed that the only remaining option was to go to the press, and the 9th Circuit ruling credits him for choosing that path, noting that his disclosures enabled “significant public debate over the appropriate scope of government surveillance”. Indeed, this ruling simply would not have been possible without his public disclosures. The government had long maneuvered to keep mass surveillance programs beyond this kind of judicial scrutiny.
As a witness to large scale illegality, and without effective or safe channels, Snowden was placed in a dilemma: break his agreement to protect classified information, or break his sworn oath to uphold the laws and defend the Constitution. He chose to honor his higher duty and so turned to the only other available channel that could serve as a check against government wrongdoing: the press. Snowden turned to the “Fourth Estate” and it played exactly the role the Founders intended. We cannot now prosecute him as a spy or abandon him to a lifetime of exile for having done so.
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)
Johnson the Invisible Brat
Johnson the invisible brat,
Thinks he’s better than us all,
For he’s a posh prime minister,
Who defies international law,
No matter how many graves get filled,
Or the cupboards are running bare,
You bet you can rely on this,
Johnson won’t be there.
Hancock, Priti, any sycophant,
It doesn’t matter who,
Can keep a straight face on camera,
While reading the lies on the autocue.
Nursing homes, schools there’s Covid everywhere,
But whenever there’s a crisis,
Johnson isn’t there
Depravity, depravity there’s no match for his depravity.
He is nastiness in human form, with not a shred of common humanity.
You may read him in a by-line, or see his face in the morning paper,
But when there’s a problem to deal with,
Boris Johnson won’t be seen till later.
Depravity, depravity the are no bounds to his depravity,
He’s already broken every law and conduct of normality,
His powers of crass dishonesty are way beyond compare,
He lies in every sentence and doesn’t seem to care,
You may look for him in Downing Street or in another lair,
But when a job is needing done,
Boris Johnson is never there.
He’ll sack anyone who happens in his way
And tear up any treaty he doesn’t like today,
He is outwardly respectably but he cheats all his friends
He’ll trample over anyone to get to his own ends,
Or he’ll send his hoodlum Cummings to crush dissenting minds.
Lies, corruption, negligence we know he doesn’t care
But when there is money to be made,
Johnson and mates will be there.
In Britain he acts like a dictator doing just as he wants,
Ignoring real life tragedies while posing for photo stunts,
For all his fake bravado, he’s just another coward,
A liar, a bully a posh self-centred fraud.
He’s an invisible prime minister who is never here,
But whenever there’s Trump’s arse to kiss,
You can be sure that,
Boris Johnson will reappear.
Calamity then catastrophe with grand theft larceny,
Another billion of our money flushed down the lavat’ry,
He cares not for our suffering our deaths and our pain,
Fake news and lies again and again,
When things go wrong and account is called,
It is always someone else’s fault,
What ever the problem no matter where
He always can claim that he wasn’t there.
Covid 19’s, coming,
He says we’ll take it on the chin,
World beating, moonshot, track and trace,
Endless lies and spin
Just more meaningless hot air from this uncaring buffoon,
Exam results fiasco, yet he never showed his face.
Children going hungry a national disgrace
We must take matters in our own hands,
To make things proper here,
Have confidence in our own powers,
Make Johnson and his kind
Take Action Now
Write, email and call the Nebraska Board of Pardons. Request that they expedite Ed’s application, schedule his hearing for the October 2020 meeting and commute his sentence.
*please email a copy of your letter..to firstname.lastname@example.org---EMAIL: email@example.com
CALL: Governor Pete Ricketts--402-471-2244 & SoS Robert B. Evnen---402-471-2554 & AG Doug Peterson--402-471-2683
His peers criticized this appearance. The press purposefully didn't cover it. He simply wanted to inspire young minds with the beauty and power of science, drawing attention to the power of ALL human minds, regardless of race.
“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.” -Albert Einstein
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Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
Center for Constitutional Rights
Civil Liberties Defense Center
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Grand Jury Resistance Project
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Tilted Scales Collective
Reality Winner Tests Positive for COVID, Still Imprisoned
With great anguish, I’m writing to share the news that NSA whistleblower Reality Winner, still in federal prison, has tested positive for COVID-19. Winner, despite her vulnerable health conditions, was denied home release in April – the judge’s reasoning being that the Federal Medical Center, Carswell is “presumably better equipped than most to deal with the onset of COVID-19 in its inmates”.Since that ruling, COVID infections at Carswell have exploded, ranking it now as second highest in the nation for the number of cases, and substantially increasing the likelihood that its medical capacity will be overwhelmed.This news comes one week after Trump’s commutation of convicted felon Roger Stone, and two months after the home release of Trump’s convicted campaign manager, Paul Manafort:
Roger Stone’s Freedom Is All the More Outrageous While Reality Winner Languishes in PrisonDonald Trump’s commutation of Roger Stone’s prison sentence is galling on numerous levels. It’s a brazen act of corruption and an egregious obstruction of an ongoing investigation of the President and his enablers. There are few figures less worthy of clemency than a Nixonian dirty trickster like Stone. But the final twist of the knife is that Reality Winner, the honest, earnest, anti-Stone of the Russian meddling saga, remains in federal prison.
Please share this with your networks, and stand with us in support of Reality Winner and her family during this critical time.
Thank you,Jesselyn Radack
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)
You are receiving this list because you have opted in on our website.
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You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this listWHISPeR Project at ExposeFacts 1627 Eye Street, NW Suite 600 Washington, DC 20006
Subject: Shut Down Fort Hood! Justice for Vanessa Guillén. Sign the petition!
SHUT DOWN FORT HOOD NOW!JUSTICE FOR
PFC. VANESSA GUILLÉN!
Sign the Petition
In late April, Pfc. Vanessa Guillén went missing from her base in Ft. Hood, Texas. It took her family and friends working night and day to appeal to the commanding officers to get any attention whatsoever about her whereabouts. Vanessa had told her family she had been sexually harassed by her supervisor.For more than three months, Vanessa’s higher-ups paid little attention to her family’s urgent pleas to investigate her disappearance. She was treated as being disposable.In late June, her body was found 25 miles from the base. Vanessa had been tragically murdered by her abuser who later killed himself upon capture.The unspeakable crimes against Vanessa Guillén have opened a floodgate of testimonies about sexual assault in the military. Many women and LGBTQ2S+ people are telling their heartbreaking stories with the hashtag #iamvanessaGuillén.Vanessa’s death is a result of sexual harassment in the military, which is deplorable. Fort Hood is the worst. According to the Pentagon’s own reports, it has the most sexual assaults of any Army post in the country. That is why it must be shut down now!In addition, Fort Hood, the single biggest military post in the U.S. armed forces, is named after a Confederate general. Its name glorifies racism and slavery.When Vanessa Guillén enlisted in the Army, she thought she’d be doing good and it would be helpful to her. Instead, it destroyed her. But how could it not when the military exists not to help people, but to defend Wall Street? It invaded and still occupies Iraq and Afghanistan, killing millions, just for oil profits.The case for Justice for Vanessa is very much linked to the movement for Black Lives. Young people of color must have other options than police violence or going to war for their future.WE DEMAND:•Investigate Fort Hood Commanding General Robert White and others for conspiracy to cover up Pfc. Vanessa Guillén’s murder. Why did it take a mass movement to find what happened?
•Shut down Ft. Hood! There is no other way to end the deplorable conditions soldiers face.
•Job training, education, COVID-19 relief, not war! If we shut down the Pentagon, the annual U.S. defense budget of $1 trillion could be used for people’s needs, not war.
•End misogyny and homophobia in the military. Justice for Vanessa and all survivors.
147 W 24th St.
New York City, NY 10011
This legacy belongs to all of us:
“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere, destroyed the forest to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries. . . Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature–but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.” The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man 1876. —Friedrich Engels
Marvin Gaye - What's Going On (Official Video 2019)
BlackRock loves to make a killing on killing: Over a thousand Americans have been killed by Tasers — 32 percent of them are Black Americans. Tasers are made by the colossal law enforcement supplier Axon Enterprise, based in Arizona.
One of their top shareholders happens to be Blackrock. Recently Blackrock has been trying to be sympathetic to the atrocities of murders waged on Black Americans and communities of color. If we ramp up massive pressure and blow the whistle on their deadly stocks, we can highlight that divesting from Tasers and the war in our streets will be a step in the right direction in building a fair and just society.
This issue is important to having peace in our streets. But this will only work if people participate. Send an email to Blackrock to divest from the Taser manufacturer Axon Enterprise which is responsible for the killing of thousands of Americans, and CODEPINK will pull out all the stops to make sure Blackrock execs hear our call:
Tell Blackrock: stop investing in Tasers!
Blackrock could do this. They recently announced that they were divesting from fossil fuels — signaling a shift in their policies. If CEO Larry Fink cares about “diversity, fairness, and justice” and building a “stronger, more equal, and safer society” — he should divest from Tasers.
Plus, compared to Blackrock’s other holdings, Taser stocks aren’t even that significant!
But if Blackrock does this, it could be the first domino we need to get other investment companies on board too. Send an email to BlackRock and share this widely!
Tell Blackrock: stop investing in Tasers!
If there’s one thing our community stands for, it’s peace and social justice. And one way we can help achieve that is by cutting off the flow of cash into the manufacturing of Tasers. So, let’s come together to make that happen, and help prevent more innocent Americans from being killed with these senseless tools.
Nancy, Carley, Jodie, Paki, Cody, Kelsey, and Yousef
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If you haven't seen this, you're missing something spectacular:
On Saturday May 30th filmmaker and photographer David Jones of David Jones Media felt compelled to go out and serve the community in some way. He decided to use his art to try and explain the events that were currently impacting our lives. On day two, Sunday the 31st, he activated his dear friend author Kimberly Jones to tag along and conduct interviews. During a moment of downtime he captured these powerful words from her and felt the world couldn’t wait for the full length documentary, they needed to hear them now.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Ultimately, the majority of human suffering is caused by a system that places the value of material wealth over the value of
human life. To end the suffering, we must end the profit motive—the very foundation of capitalism itself.—BAUAW
(Bay Area United Against War Newsletter)
Ultimately, the majority of human suffering is caused by a system that places the value of material wealth over the value of
human life. To end the suffering, we must end the profit motive—the very foundation of capitalism itself.
(Bay Area United Against War Newsletter)
I didn't do nothing serious man
please I can't breathe
I can't breathe
I can't breathe
man can't breathe, my face
just get up
I can't breathe
I can't breathe sh*t
I can't move
my stomach hurt
my neck hurts
some water or something
I can't breathe officer
don't kill me
they gon' kill me man
come on man
I cannot breathe
I cannot breathe
they gon' kill me
they gon' kill me
I can't breathe
I can't breathe
please I can't breathe"
Then his eyes shut and the pleas stop. George Floyd was pronounced dead shortly after.
By ShakaboonaTrump Comic Satire—A Proposal
Write to Shakaboona:Smart Communications/PA DOCKerry Shakaboona Marshall #BE7826SCI RockviewP.O. Box 33028St. Petersburg, FL 33733
Enough is Enough: Global Nuclear Weapons
Raping, torturing their way across
the continent—400 years ago—
Colonial settler thugs launched this
endless crimson tide rolling down on
endless crimson tide leaving in-
visible yellow crime
scene tape crisscrossing Tallahassee
to Seattle; San Diego to Bangor…
Choctaw, Mohawk, Cayuga, Blackfeet,
Shooting Sioux, Shawnee, Chickasaw,
Looting Lakota land; Looting Ohlone
Looting Ashanti, Fulani, Huasa, Wolof,
Yoruba, Ibo, Kongo, Mongo, Hutu, Zulu…
endless crimson tide—hot lead storms—
Shooting, looting Mexico for half of New
Mexico; a quarter of Colorado; some of
Wyoming and most of Arizona; Looting
Mexico for Utah, Nevada and California
is dirty like Duterte—howling for shooting;
Next time demented minions raise rifles to
shoot; Remind them that
Real looters wear Brooks Brothers suits;
Or gold braid and junk medals ‘cross their
chests. Real looters—with Capitalist Hill
Not FOX-boxes, silly sneakers, cheap clothes…
Veterans Join Call for a Global Ceasefire
www.couragetoresist.org ~ 510.488.3559 ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist
Oakland, CA 94610-2730
"The biggest block from having society in harmony with the universe is the belief in a lie that says it’s not realistic or ￼humanly possible."
"If Obama taught me anything it’s that it don’t matter who you vote for in this system. There’s nothing a politician can do that the next one can’t undo. You can’t vote away the ills of society people have to put our differences aside ban together and fight for the greater good, not vote for the lesser evil."
—Johnny Gould (Follow @tandino415 on Instagram)
When faced with the opportunity to do good, I really think it’s the instinct of humanity to do so. It’s in our genetic memory from our earliest ancestors. ￼It’s the altered perception of the reality of what being human truly is that’s been indoctrinated ￼in to every generation for the last 2000 years or more that makes us believe that we are born sinners. I can’t get behind that one. We all struggle with certain things, but I really think ￼￼that all the “sinful” behavior is learned and wisdom and goodwill is innate at birth. ￼ —Johnny Gould (Follow @tandino415 on Instagram)
Mumia Abu-Jamal: New Chance for Freedom
Police and State Frame-Up Must Be Fully Exposed!
Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent. Courts have ignored and suppressed evidence of his innocence for decades.... But now, one court has thrown out all the decisions of the PA Supreme Court that denied Mumia's appeals against his unjust conviction during the years of 1998 to 2012!
This ruling, by Judge Leon Tucker, was made because one judge on the PA Supreme Court during those years, Ronald Castille, was lacking the "appearance of impartiality." In plain English, he was clearly biased against Mumia. Before sitting on the PA Supreme Court, Castille had been District Attorney (or assistant DA) during the time of Mumia's frame-up and conviction, and had used his office to express a special interest in pursuing the death penalty for "cop-killers." Mumia was in the cross-hairs. Soon he was wrongly convicted and sent to death row for killing a police officer.....
* * * * *
Mumia Abu-Jamal is an award-winning and intrepid journalist, a former Black Panther, MOVE supporter, and a critic of police brutality and murder. Mumia was framed by police, prosecutors, and leading elements of both Democratic and Republican parties, for the shooting of a police officer.. The US Justice Department targeted him as well... A racist judge helped convict him, and corrupt courts have kept him locked up despite much evidence that should have freed him. He continues his commentary and journalism from behind bars. As of 2019, he has been imprisoned for 37 years for a crime he did not commit.
Time is up! FREE MUMIA NOW!
* * * * *
DA's Hidden Files Show Frame-Up of Mumia
In the midst of Mumia's fight for his right to challenge the state Supreme Court's negative rulings, a new twist was revealed: six boxes of files on Mumia's case--with many more still hidden--were surreptitiously concealed for decades in a back room at the District Attorney's office in Philadelphia. The very fact that these files on Mumia's case were hidden away for decades is damning in the extreme, and their revelations confirm what we have known for decades: Mumia was framed for a crime he did not commit!
So far, the newly revealed evidence confirms that, at the time of Mumia's 1982 trial, chief prosecutor Joe McGill illegally removed black jurors from the jury, violating the Batson decision. Also revealed: The prosecution bribed witnesses into testifying that they saw Mumia shoot the slain police officer when they hadn't seen any such thing.... Taxi driver Robert Chobert, who was on probation for fire-bombing a school yard at the time, had sent a letter demanding his money for lying on the stand....... Very important, but the newly revealed evidence is just the tip of the iceberg!
All Evidence of Mumia's Innocence Must Be Brought Forward Now!
Mumia Abu-Jamal's trial for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner was rigged against him from beginning to end........ All of the evidence of Mumia's innocence--which was earlier suppressed or rejected--must now be heard:
• Mumia was framed - The judge at Mumia's trial, Albert Sabo, was overheard to say, "I'm gonna help 'em fry the n____r." And he proceeded to do just that.... Mumia was thrown out of his own trial for defending himself! Prosecution "witnesses" were coerced or bribed at trial to lie against Mumia.. In addition to Chobert, this included key witness Cynthia White, a prostitute who testified that she saw Mumia shoot Faulkner... White's statements had to be rewritten under intense pressure from the cops, because she was around the corner and out of sight of the shooting at the time! Police bribed her with promises of being allowed to work her corner, and not sent to state prison for her many prostitution charges.
• Mumia only arrived on the scene after Officer Faulkner was shot - William Singletary, a tow-truck business owner who had no reason to lie against the police, said he had been on the scene the whole time, that Mumia was not the shooter, and that Mumia had arrived only after the shooting of Faulkner. Singletary's statements were torn up, his business was wrecked, and he was threatened by police to be out of town for the trial (which, unfortunately, he was)...
• There is no evidence that Mumia fired a gun - Mumia was shot on the scene by an arriving police officer and arrested. But the cops did not test his hands for gun-powder residue--a standard procedure in shootings! They also did not test Faulkner's hands. The prosecution nevertheless claimed Mumia was the shooter, and that he was shot by Faulkner as the officer fell to the ground. Ballistics evidence was corrupted to falsely show that Mumia's gun was the murder weapon, when his gun was reportedly still in his taxi cab, which was in police custody days after the shooting!
• The real shooter fled the scene and was never charged - Veronica Jones was a witness who said that after hearing the shots from a block away, she had seen two people fleeing the scene of the shooting.... This could not have included Mumia, who had been shot and almost killed at the scene. Jones was threatened by the police with arrest and loss of custody of her children. She then lied on the stand at trial to say she had seen no one running away.
• Abu-Jamal never made a confession - Mumia has always maintained his innocence. But police twice concocted confessions that Mumia never made. Inspector Alfonso Giordano, the senior officer at the crime scene, made up a confession for Mumia. But Giordano was not allowed to testify at trial, because he was top on the FBI's list of corrupt cops in the Philadelphia police force... At the DA's request, another cop handily provided a second "confession," allegedly heard by a security guard in the hospital......... But at neither time was Mumia--almost fatally shot--able to speak.. And an earlier police report by cops in the hospital said that, referring to Mumia: "the negro male made no comment"!
• The crime scene was tampered with by police - Police officers at the scene rearranged some evidence, and handled what was alleged to be Mumia's gun with their bare hands... A journalist's photos revealed this misconduct. The cops then left the scene unattended for hours.. All of this indicates a frame-up in progress....
• The real shooter confessed, and revealed the reason for the crime - Arnold Beverly came forward in the 1990s. He said in a sworn statement, under penalty of perjury, that he, not Mumia, had been the actual shooter. He said that he, along with "another guy," had been hired to do the hit, because Faulkner was "a problem for the mob and corrupt policemen because he interfered with the graft and payoffs made to allow illegal activity including prostitution, gambling, drugs without prosecution in the center city area"! (affidavit of Arnold Beverly).
• The corruption of Philadelphia police is documented and well known - This includes that of Giordano, who was the first cop to manufacture a "confession" by Mumia... Meanwhile, Faulkner's cooperation with the federal anti-corruption investigations of Philadelphia police is strongly suggested by his lengthy and heavily redacted FBI file......
• Do cops kill other cops? There are other cases in Philadelphia that look that way. Frank Serpico, an NYC cop who investigated and reported on police corruption, was abandoned by fellow cops after being shot in a drug bust. Mumia was clearly made a scape-goat for the crimes of corrupt Philadelphia cops who were protecting their ill-gotten gains.
• Politicians and US DOJ helped the frame-up - Ed Rendell, former DA, PA governor, and head of the Democratic National Committee--and now a senior advisor to crime-bill author Joe Biden--is complicit in the frame-up of Mumia. The US Justice Department targeted Mumia for his anti-racist activities when he was a teenager, and later secretly warned then-prosecutor Rendell not to use Giordano as a witness against Mumia because he was an FBI target for corruption..
* * * * *
All this should lead to an immediate freeing of Mumia! But we are still a ways away from that, and we have no confidence in the capitalist courts to finish the job. We must act! This victory in local court allowing new appeals must now lead to a full-court press on all the rejected and suppressed evidence of Mumia's innocence!
Mass Movement Needed To Free Mumia!
Mumia's persecution by local, state and federal authorities of both political parties has been on-going, and has generated a world-wide movement in his defense... This movement has seen that Mumia, as a radio journalist who exposed the brutal attacks on the black community by the police in Philadelphia, has spoken out as a defender of working people of all colors and all nationalities in his ongoing commentaries (now on KPFA/Pacifica radio), despite being on death row, and now while serving life without the possibility of parole (LWOP)...
In 1999, Oakland Teachers for Mumia held unauthorized teach-ins in Oakland schools on Mumia and the death penalty, despite the rabid hysteria in the bourgeois media. Teachers in Rio de Janeiro held similar actions. Letters of support came in from maritime workers and trade unions around the world.. Later in 1999, longshore workers shut down all the ports on the West Coast to free Mumia, and led a mass march of 25,000 Mumia supporters in San Francisco................
A year later, a federal court lifted Mumia's death sentence, based on improper instructions to the jury by trial judge Albert Sabo.. The federal court ordered the local court to hold a new sentencing hearing... Fearing their frame-up of Mumia could be revealed in any new hearing, even if only on sentencing, state officials passed. Much to the chagrin of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)--which still seeks Mumia's death--this left Mumia with LWOP, death by life in prison..
Mumia supporters waged a struggle to get him the cure for the deadly Hepatitis-C virus, which he had likely contracted through a blood transfusion in hospital after he was shot by a cop at the 1981 crime scene. The Labor Action Committee conducted demonstrations against Gilead Sciences, the Foster City CA corporation that owns the cure, and charged $1,000 per pill! The Metalworkers Union of South Africa wrote a letter excoriating Governor Wolf for allowing untreated sick freedom fighters to die in prison as the apartheid government had done. Finally, Mumia did get the cure.. Now, more than ever, struggle is needed to free Mumia!
Now is the Time: Mobilize Again for Mumia's Freedom!
Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal | Mumia Abu-Jamal is an I.....
Message to the People
A voice from inside Pennsylvania’s gulag
LETTERS NEEDED FOR
Dear Friends, Supporters, and Family,
In light of the provisions of the CARES Act meant to decrease the risk to prisoner heath, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Attorney General has delegated to the Director of the Bureau of Prisons the authority to release certain vulnerable prisoners to home confinement. Currently, the process for identifying appropriate candidates for home confinement have not been solidified but we believe it may help to write to the BOP Director and Southeast Regional Director and ask that Leonard be immediately considered and transitioned to his home on the Turtle Mountain Reservation.Your letters should be addressed to:
Michael CarvajalDirector320 First Street NWWashington, DC 20534
J.A. KellerSoutheast Regional DirectorFederal Bureau of3800 Camp Crk Prk SW, Building 2000Atlanta, GA 30331
We have not drafted a form letter or correspondence. Your pleas should come from your heart as an individual who has supported Leonard for so many years. Say what you would like but we have put together some talking points that will assist you in your letter writing. Below are some helpful guidelines so your letter touches on the requirements of the Attorney General’s criteria for releasing inmates like Leonard to home confinement
OPENING:• Point out that Leonard is an elder and is at risk for example.” Mr. Peltier is 75 years old and in very poor health; his only desire is to go home to the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation and live out the remainder of his years surrounded by his family.”
MEDICAL:The AG and CDC guidelines for releasing inmates requires the health concerns cause greater risk of getting the virus. Leonard has the following conditions you can list in your letter• Diabetes• Spots on lung• Heart Condition (has had triple by-pass surgery)• Leonard Peltier suffers from a kidney disease that cannot be treated at the Coleman1facility and impacts as an underlying condition if contracting the virus.
RISK TO COMMUNITY:To qualify for release to home confinement we must show that Leonard poses no risk to the community.
COMMUNITY SUPPORT/RENTRY PLAN:To qualify for release to home confinement we must show that Leonard has a reentry plan. Leonard has support from the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Band and has family land on the reservation where he can live.
RISK OF COVID 19:To qualify for the release to home confinement must show that Leonard is at reduced risk to exposure of COVID 19 by release than he is at Coleman 1. Currently Rolette County, ND has no cases of COVID 19, Sumter County has at least 33 cases.
Questions and comments may be sent to email@example.com
Major Tillery, a prisoner at SCI Chester and a friend of Mumia, may have caught the coronavirus. Major is currently under lockdown at SCI Chester, where a coronavirus outbreak is currently taking place. Along with the other prisoners at SCI Chester, he urgently needs your help.
500 E. 4th St.
Chester, PA 19013
Telephone: (610) 490-5412
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Prison Superintendent). email@example.com (Superintendent's Assistant)Please also call the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections at:Department of Corrections
1920 Technology Parkway
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Telephone: (717) 737-4531
This telephone number is for SCI Camp Hill, which is the current number for DOC.
Reference Major's inmate number: AM 9786
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgDemand that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections immediately:
2) Disinfect all cells and common areas at SCI Chester, including sinks, toilets, eating areas and showers;
3) Provide PPE (personal protective equipment) for all inmates at SCI Chester;
4) Provide access to showers for all prisoners at SCI Chester, as a basic hygiene measure;
5) Provide yard access to all prisoners at SCI Chester;
6) Provide phone and internet access to all prisoners at SCI Chester;
7) Immediately release prisoners from SCI Chester, including Major Tillery, who already suffers from a compromised immune system, in order to save their lives from execution by COVID-19.
It has been reported that prisoners are now receiving shower access. However, please insist that prisoners be given shower access and that all common areas are disinfected.
The Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
By Parul Sehgal, Sept. 29, 2020
For a century, they languished in a museum attic. Fifteen wooden cases, palm-size and lined with velvet. Cocooned within are some of history’s cruelest, most contentious images — the first photographs, it is believed, of enslaved human beings.
Alfred, Fassena and Jem. Renty and his daughter Delia. Jack and his daughter Drana. They face us directly in one image and stand in profile in the next, bodies held fixed by an iron brace. The Zealy daguerreotypes, as the pictures are known, were taken in 1850 at the behest of the Harvard zoologist Louis Agassiz. A proponent of polygenesis — the idea that the races descended from different origins, a notion challenged in its own time and refuted by Darwin — he had the pictures taken to furnish proof of this theory.
Agassiz wanted images of barbarity, and he got them — implicating only himself. He had hand-selected his subjects in South Carolina, seeking types — “specimens,” as he put it — but each daguerreotype reveals an individual, deeply dignified and expressive. Their hurt, contempt, fatigue, utter refusal are unequivocal. The photographer, Joseph T. Zealy, who specialized in society portraits, did not alter his method for the shoot; he carried on as usual, using the same light, the same angles, giving the images their unsettling, formal perfection.
Agassiz showed the pictures only once. They were then tucked away at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Rediscovered in 1976, they have been at the center of urgent debates about photography ever since.
Is there a correct way to regard these images? Should one view them, or any coerced image, at all? To whom do they belong? Do they quicken or numb the conscience? Does displaying them traumatize the living? Is it care or cowardice to keep them concealed? What do we owe the dead?
I am looking at the pictures now, in a handsome recently published volume; the deep crimson of its cover matches the plush interior of the portrait cases. “To Make Their Own Way in the World: The Enduring Legacy of the Zealy Daguerreotypes,” edited by Ilisa Barbash, Molly Rogers and Deborah Willis, convenes a group of scholars of slavery, American history, memory, photography and science. Their aim is to tell “more fully the complex story of the people in these iconic images.”
The specialists attend to their own sections, like the far corners of an immense puzzle. Slowly the era is pieced together in lavish detail, through histories of the daguerreotype and reconstructions of the daily lives of the subjects. The artist Carrie Mae Weems discusses her famous reinterpretation of the photographs. The novelist Harlan Greene delves into the racist history of South Carolina, where 165 years to the day after Zealy completed the series, a white teenager named Dylann Roof posted snippets of 19th-century racist pseudoscience on social media, and killed nine Black congregants of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Do these essays — so rich in context — assist us in seeing the photographs any better? Perhaps a better question is: Do they provide the necessary context? Do they resolve that tension I feel as I look at Drana and register both the appeal in her eyes and the absolute certainty (for she is proud — I feel it in the set of her chin) that she would hate being in this book, perhaps even hate being invoked in this essay — unclothed, stared at, opined upon? And yet the notion that she be forgotten, unseen, is also intolerable. It is the tension of “sitting in the room with history,” as the poet Dionne Brand has written.
It is the tension and the buried irony in the title “To Make Their Own Way in the World,” plucked from an essay by Frederick Douglass. Douglass, the most photographed American of the 19th century, is a recurrent character in this book. There’s no evidence that he knew of the daguerreotypes, but he spoke publicly against pseudoscience, and, like Sojourner Truth, cannily publicized his image as a counternarrative to racist portrayals. In “Lecture on Pictures,” he lauded the democratization of the daguerreotype. He wrote: “Pictures, like songs, should be left to make their own way in the world. All they can reasonably ask of us is that we place them on the wall, in the best light, and for the rest allow them to speak for themselves.”
At first glance, it’s an unimpeachable sentiment. The editors clearly want to give the viewer ample background information and then trust her and the photograph. Compare it to, say, the recent furor over four museums canceling a retrospective of the work of Philip Guston, worried that his depictions of the Ku Klux Klan lacked sufficient framing.
What’s curious about the title is that the story of the Zealy daguerreotypes is one of fraught and contested possession. Harvard, which owns the photographs, long zealously guarded the copyright, threatening to sue Weems, who duplicated the images in her 1995 series “From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried.” After deciding that she had a moral if not a legal case, Weems encouraged the lawsuit: “I think actually your suing me would be a really good thing,” she has remembered telling Harvard. “You should. And we should have this conversation in court. I think it would be really instructive for any number of reasons.” Harvard ended up acquiring the series.
In 2019, Tamara Lanier, a retired probation officer living in Connecticut, claimed to be a direct descendant of Renty. Her family had long passed down stories about “Papa Renty,” and Lanier devoted herself to finding him, combing census and death records and slave inventories, finally locating him in South Carolina.
Lanier’s findings have been verified by genealogists, including Toni Carrier, a contributor to the PBS series “African-American Lives,” hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr., who writes the introduction to this book. Lanier’s revelation arrives in the midst of decolonial movements around the world, calls for museums to repatriate stolen relics and universities examining their ties to slavery. She has found popular support. Forty-three descendants of Agassiz signed a letter to Harvard University President Lawrence S. Bacow asking the school to turn over the photographs. This month, the Harvard Undergraduate Council unanimously voted to pass a statement condemning the university’s ownership of the daguerreotypes, writing: “Imagine your great-grandparents were enslaved, exploited, forced to strip naked, photographed against their will, those photographs are publicly shared today … and there was nothing you could do about it.”
A few contributors to this book have expressed skepticism about Lanier’s lineage — although only Gates mentions her directly. Rogers, one of the editors and the author of a previous book about the images, “Delia’s Tears,” maintains that tracing heredity under slavery is complex. “It’s not necessarily by blood,” she has said of family records. “It could be people who take responsibility for each other.” In his introduction, Gates downplays Lanier’s connection to Renty. “In a larger sense, can any one person be the heir of these photographs, or does the responsibility for them fall to all of us to protect them as archival relics of history, to be studied, pondered and reckoned with?”
It’s an odd statement. Why would Lanier’s claim threaten the “pondering” and protection of the pictures? What does he imagine Lanier has in mind for them? Already some writers have taken to approaching her directly, to symbolically ask for her permission to use the images — Thomas A. Foster, for example, author of “Rethinking Rufus: Sexual Violations of Enslaved Men.” Lanier encouraged him, he has said, because “she believes that the story of the daguerreotypes and of exploitation under slavery, need to be told.” Lanier’s own lawyer has stated that one ideal use of the pictures could be a traveling exhibit.
But in one respect, Gates is absolutely correct. If Lanier has a claim, the photographs will no longer be known only as “archival relics.” Renty and Delia are not relics to Lanier — they are family. Renty is known not as an object of study but a source of comfort and pride, the star of the family bedtime stories, a man who secretly taught himself and others to read. In Lanier’s accounts, he was never invisible, never lost, never in need of “discovery.” What kind of scholarship, what kind of criticism will he prompt if seen this way — not as a figure in need of reclamation or object of fascination but as an ancestor deserving of protection, whose memory has been improbably preserved?
Daguerreotypes, as is often noted, are sensitive, mirrored surfaces. You need to find the precise angle that blocks out your own reflection. Everything you see depends on where you stand.
By John Schwartz, Oct. 1, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/10/01/climate/biodegradable-containers.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage
You care about the planet, and would like to avoid bottles and other goods made of single-use plastic. But it’s complicated.
Choosing products with packaging that claims to be “biodegradable” or “compostable” might mean that they degrade only under special conditions, and could complicate recycling efforts, said Jason Locklin, the director of the New Materials Institute at the University of Georgia. “It’s tremendously confusing, not just to the consumer, but even to many scientists,” he said.
Here are four examples of the kinds of products you might see on supermarket shelves or at the takeout counter. It’s not an exhaustive list, but one that can give you a sense of the issues that people face.
It doesn’t come from petroleum. But in a landfill, it might be just as bad.
Food service items made from polyactic acid, or PLA, include bottles, disposable cutlery, plastic films, some grocery bags and other products. They look like plastic made from petroleum, but PLA is usually made from corn, though it can come from other plants, including beets, cassava and sugar cane.
The labels on PLA products often describe them as compostable. But that doesn’t mean you can just throw the stuff into your backyard compost pile, if you have one. To properly degrade, they have to be sent to commercial compost facilities.
The process of industrial composting involves high heat and precisely controlled moisture, among other conditions, and it isn’t available in many parts of the country. Worse, PLA products look enough like regular recyclable plastic bottles, which are made from the most common plastic used in recyclable bottles, known as PET, that they can get mixed in at the recycling plant, and can contaminate the recycling stream.
And if your PLA trash ends up in a landfill, it will be there a very long time, because it’s unlikely to be exposed to conditions that would help it to break down.
Paper, kind of
It’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Similar to the push from some restaurants to replace plastic straws with paper ones, paper bottles are seen as a possible option to replace plastic ones. Because they can be made of sustainable, renewable materials (from trees!), paper bottles are getting the attention of major companies. Coca-Cola, Carlsberg and the vodka maker Absolut are exploring the idea with the Paper Bottle Company.
Paper, of course, is recyclable — as long as it is just paper. However, paper-based bottles and containers tend to be made with several layers of materials other than paper, including plastic or foil, to form barriers. One paper bottle maker’s website calls 100 percent biodegradability a “goal.”
Hypothetically, you could strip away the layers and recycle the paper, but who’s actually going to do that?
Looks compostable, but may end up in the landfill anyway.
Some fast-casual restaurants use bowls designed and marketed to be compostable. They are made from bagasse, a fiber produced as a byproduct from sugar cane mills.
Sweetgreen, for instance, put the message in a longtime slogan: “Nothing from inside Sweetgreen goes to the landfill.” But getting to current levels of compostability has been a struggle for Sweetgreen and Chipotle, whose previous bowls turned out to contain PFAS, a family of chemicals linked to cancer that can remain in the environment even after the bowl has been composted.
They fixed that problem. But while your bowl may be compostable, if you don’t compost at home you have to throw it into a dedicated composting bin in the restaurant, or use a composting service.
Don’t put it in the recycling bin: Materials that come contaminated with food get rejected by recyclers. And throwing the bowl into a trash can at the office or at home means it’s likely to go to a landfill anyway.
Bacteria do the work
Next best thing?
PHA, or polyhydroxyalkanoate, has been the next big thing in biodegradability for years. This bioplastic, which can be produced by bacteria, has promising properties: Research suggests it can break down in conventional landfills. In ocean water, it will degrade within a few years, a fraction of the 450 years that it takes standard plastic.
Producing the material economically, however, has been a technical challenge.
Cove, a bottled water company, says it is about to bring out its product in containers made from PHA. The company that supplies the bioplastic to Cove, RWDC Industries, introduced drinking straws made from the material last year in Singapore, where the company is based.
There is certainly a market for environmentally friendly goods. A report by the market research firm Mintel Group found that 34 percent of consumers said they would pay more for water packaged in 100 percent biodegradable bottles.
“There is a place for biodegradable materials” as a way to cut down the sheer amount of mismanaged plastic waste the world is dealing with, said Jenna Jambeck, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Georgia who has studied the accumulation of plastics in the world’s oceans and the ability of PHA to degrade. However, she worries about the consequences of developing products that are seemingly environmentally friendly without planning for disposal and recycling. “You have to think about end of life when you’re designing things,” she said.
Ultimately, Dr. Jambeck said, “the best thing you can do environmentally is not create any waste in the first place.”
Discipline disparities between Black and white boys have driven reform efforts for years. But Black girls are arguably the most at-risk student group in the United States.
By Erica L. Green, Mark Walker and Eliza Shapiro, Oct. 1, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/01/us/politics/black-girls-school-discipline.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Medium, June 6, 2020
I was a police officer for nearly ten years and I was a bastard. We all were.
This essay has been kicking around in my head for years now and I’ve never felt confident enough to write it. It’s a time in my life I’m ashamed of. It’s a time that I hurt people and, through inaction, allowed others to be hurt. It’s a time that I acted as a violent agent of capitalism and white supremacy. Under the guise of public safety, I personally ruined people’s lives but in so doing, made the public no safer…so did the family members and close friends of mine who also bore the badge alongside me.
But enough is enough.
The reforms aren’t working. Incrementalism isn’t happening. Unarmed Black, indigenous, and people of color are being killed by cops in the streets and the police are savagely attacking the people protesting these murders.
American policing is a thick blue tumor strangling the life from our communities and if you don’t believe it when the poor and the marginalized say it, if you don’t believe it when you see cops across the country shooting journalists with less-lethal bullets and caustic chemicals, maybe you’ll believe it when you hear it straight from the pig’s mouth.
Why am i writing this
As someone who went through the training, hiring, and socialization of a career in law enforcement, I wanted to give a first-hand account of why I believe police officers are the way they are. Not to excuse their behavior, but to explain it and to indict the structures that perpetuate it.
I believe that if everyone understood how we’re trained and brought up in the profession, it would inform the demands our communities should be making of a new way of community safety. If I tell you how we were made, I hope it will empower you to unmake us.
One of the other reasons I’ve struggled to write this essay is that I don’t want to center the conversation on myself and my big salty boo-hoo feelings about my bad choices. It’s a toxic white impulse to see atrocities and think “How can I make this about me?” So, I hope you’ll take me at my word that this account isn’t meant to highlight me, but rather the hundred-thousand of me in every city in the country. It’s about the structure that made me (that I chose to pollute myself with) and it’s my meager contribution to the cause of radical justice.
Yes, all cops are bastards
I was a police officer in a major metropolitan area in California with a predominantly poor, non-white population (with a large proportion of first-generation immigrants.) One night during briefing, our watch commander told us that the city council had requested a new zero tolerance policy. Against murderers, drug dealers, or child predators?
No, against homeless people collecting cans from recycling bins.
See, the city had some kickback deal with the waste management company where waste management got paid by the government for our expected tonnage of recycling. When homeless people “stole” that recycling from the waste management company, they were putting that cheaper contract in peril. So, we were to arrest as many recyclers as we could find.
Even for me, this was a stupid policy and I promptly blew Sarge off. But a few hours later, Sarge called me over to assist him. He was detaining a 70-year-old immigrant who spoke no English, who he’d seen picking a coke can out of a trash bin. He ordered me to arrest her for stealing trash. I said, “Sarge, c’mon, she’s an old lady.” He said, “I don’t give a shit. Hook her up, that’s an order.” And…I did. She cried the entire way to the station and all through the booking process. I couldn’t even comfort her because I didn’t speak Spanish. I felt disgusting but I was ordered to make this arrest and I wasn’t willing to lose my job for her.
If you’re tempted to feel sympathy for me, don’t. I used to happily hassle the homeless under other circumstances. I researched obscure penal codes so I could arrest people in homeless encampments for lesser known crimes like “remaining too close to railroad property” (369i of the California Penal Code.) I used to call it “planting warrant seeds” since I knew they wouldn’t make their court dates and we could arrest them again and again for warrant violations.
We used to have informal contests for who could cite or arrest someone for the weirdest law. DUI on a bicycle, non-regulation number of brooms on your tow truck (27700(a)(1) of the California Vehicle Code…shit like that. For me, police work was a logic puzzle for arresting people, regardless of their actual threat to the community. As ashamed as I am to admit it, it needs to be said: stripping people of their freedom felt like a game to me for many years.
I know what you’re going to ask: did I ever plant drugs? Did I ever plant a gun on someone? Did I ever make a false arrest or file a false report? Believe it or not, the answer is no. Cheating was no fun, I liked to get my stats the “legitimate” way. But I knew officers who kept a little baggie of whatever or maybe a pocket knife that was a little too big in their war bags (yeah, we called our dufflebags “war bags….) Did I ever tell anybody about it? No, I did not. Did I ever confess my suspicions when cocaine suddenly showed up in a gang member’s jacket? No, I did not.
In fact, let me tell you about an extremely formative experience: in my police academy class, we had a clique of around six trainees who routinely bullied and harassed other students: intentionally scuffing another trainee’s shoes to get them in trouble during inspection, sexually harassing female trainees, cracking racist jokes, and so on. Every quarter, we were to write anonymous evaluations of our squadmates. I wrote scathing accounts of their behavior, thinking I was helping keep bad apples out of law enforcement and believing I would be protected. Instead, the academy staff read my complaints to them out loud and outed me to them and never punished them, causing me to get harassed for the rest of my academy class. That’s how I learned that even police leadership hates rats. That’s why no one is “changing things from the inside.” They can’t, the structure won’t allow it.
And that’s the point of what I’m telling you. Whether you were my sergeant, legally harassing an old woman, me, legally harassing our residents, my fellow trainees bullying the rest of us, or “the bad apples” illegally harassing “shitbags,” we were all in it together. I knew cops that pulled women over to flirt with them. I knew cops who would pepper spray sleeping bags so that homeless people would have to throw them away. I knew cops that intentionally provoked anger in suspects so they could claim they were assaulted. I was particularly good at winding people up verbally until they lashed out so I could fight them. Nobody spoke out. Nobody stood up. Nobody betrayed the code.
None of us protected the people (you) from bad cops.
This is why “All cops are bastards.” Even your uncle, even your cousin, even your mom, even your brother, even your best friend, even your spouse, even me. Because even if they wouldn’t Do The Thing themselves, they will almost never rat out another officer who Does The Thing, much less stop it from happening.
I could write an entire book of the awful things I’ve done, seen done, and heard others bragging about doing. But, to me, the bigger question is “How did it get this way?” While I was a police officer in a city 30 miles from where I lived, many of my fellow officers were from the community and treated their neighbors just as badly as I did. While every cop’s individual biases come into play, it’s the profession itself that is toxic, and it starts from day-one of training.
Every police academy is different but all of them share certain features—taught by old cops, run like a paramilitary bootcamp, strong emphasis on protecting yourself more than anyone else. The majority of my time in the academy was spent doing aggressive physical training and watching video after video after video of police officers being murdered on duty.
I want to highlight this: nearly everyone coming into law enforcement is bombarded with dash cam footage of police officers being ambushed and killed. Over and over and over. Colorless VHS mortality plays, cops screaming for help over their radios, their bodies going limp as a pair of taillights speed away into a grainy black horizon. In my case, with commentary from an old racist cop who used to brag about assaulting Black Panthers.
To understand why all cops are bastards, you need to understand one of the things almost every training officer told me when it came to using force:
“I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by six.”
Meaning, “I’ll take my chances in court rather than risk getting hurt.” We’re able to think that way because police unions are extremely overpowered and because of the generous concept of Qualified Immunity, a legal theory which says a cop generally can’t be held personally liable for mistakes they make doing their job in an official capacity.
When you look at the actions of the officers who killed George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, or Freddie Gray, remember that they, like me, were trained to recite “I’d rather be judged by 12” as a mantra. Even if Mistakes Were Made™, the city (meaning the taxpayers, meaning you) pays the settlement, not the officer.
Once police training has—through repetition, indoctrination, and violent spectacle—promised officers that everyone in the world is out to kill them, the next lesson is that your partners are the only people protecting you. Occasionally, this is even true: I’ve had encounters turn on me rapidly to the point I legitimately thought I was going to die, only to have other officers come and turn the tables.
One of the most important thought leaders in law enforcement is Colonel Dave Grossman, a “killologist” who wrote an essay called “Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs.” Cops are the sheepdogs, bad guys are the wolves, and the citizens are the sheep (!). Colonel Grossman makes sure to mention that to a stupid sheep, sheepdogs look more like wolves than sheep, and that’s why they dislike you.
This “they hate you for protecting them and only I love you, only I can protect you” tactic is familiar to students of abuse. It’s what abusers do to coerce their victims into isolation, pulling them away from friends and family and ensnaring them in the abuser’s toxic web. Law enforcement does this too, pitting the officer against civilians. “They don’t understand what you do, they don’t respect your sacrifice, they just want to get away with crimes. You’re only safe with us.”
I think the Wolves vs. Sheepdogs dynamic is one of the most important elements as to why officers behave the way they do. Every single second of my training, I was told that criminals were not a legitimate part of their community, that they were individual bad actors, and that their bad actions were solely the result of their inherent criminality. Any concept of systemic trauma, generational poverty, or white supremacist oppression was either never mentioned or simply dismissed. After all, most people don’t steal, so anyone who does isn’t “most people,” right? To us, anyone committing a crime deserved anything that happened to them because they broke the “social contract.” And yet, it was never even a question as to whether the power structure above them was honoring any sort of contract back.
Understand: Police officers are part of the state monopoly on violence and all police training reinforces this monopoly as a cornerstone of police work, a source of honor and pride. Many cops fantasize about getting to kill someone in the line of duty, egged on by others that have. One of my training officers told me about the time he shot and killed a mentally ill homeless man wielding a big stick. He bragged that he “slept like a baby” that night. Official training teaches you how to be violent effectively and when you’re legally allowed to deploy that violence, but “unofficial training” teaches you to desire violence, to expand the breadth of your violence without getting caught, and to erode your own compassion for desperate people so you can justify punitive violence against them.
How to be a bastard
I have participated in some of these activities personally, others are ones I either witnessed personally or heard officers brag about openly. Very, very occasionally, I knew an officer who was disciplined or fired for one of these things.
· Police officers will lie about the law, about what’s illegal, or about what they can legally do to you in order to manipulate you into doing what they want.
· Police officers will lie about feeling afraid for their life to justify a use of force after the fact.
· Police officers will lie and tell you they’ll file a police report just to get you off their back.
· Police officers will lie that your cooperation will “look good for you” in court, or that they will “put in a good word for you with the DA.” The police will never help you look good in court.
· Police officers will lie about what they see and hear to access private property to conduct unlawful searches.
· Police officers will lie and say your friend already ratted you out, so you might as well rat them back out. This is almost never true.
· Police officers will lie and say you’re not in trouble in order to get you to exit a location or otherwise make an arrest more convenient for them.
· Police officers will lie and say that they won’t arrest you if you’ll just “be honest with them” so they know what really happened.
· Police officers will lie about their ability to seize the property of friends and family members to coerce a confession.
· Police officers will write obviously bullshit tickets so that they get time-and-a-half overtime fighting them in court.
· Police officers will search places and containers you didn’t consent to and later claim they were open or “smelled like marijuana.”
· Police officers will threaten you with a more serious crime they can’t prove in order to convince you to confess to the lesser crime they really want you for.
· Police officers will employ zero tolerance on races and ethnicities they dislike and show favor and lenience to members of their own group.
· Police officers will use intentionally extra-painful maneuvers and holds during an arrest to provoke “resistance” so they can further assault the suspect.
· Some police officers will plant drugs and weapons on you, sometimes to teach you a lesson, sometimes if they kill you somewhere away from public view.
· Some police officers will assault you to intimidate you and threaten to arrest you if you tell anyone.
· A non-trivial number of police officers will steal from your house or vehicle during a search.
· A non-trivial number of police officers commit intimate partner violence and use their status to get away with it.
· A non-trivial number of police officers use their position to entice, coerce, or force sexual favors from vulnerable people.
If you take nothing else away from this essay, I want you to tattoo this onto your brain forever: if a police officer is telling you something, it is probably a lie designed to gain your compliance.
Do not talk to cops and never, ever believe them. Do not “try to be helpful” with cops. Do not assume they are trying to catch someone else instead of you. Do not assume what they are doing is “important” or even legal. Under no circumstances assume any police officer is acting in good faith.
Also, and this is important, do not talk to cops.
I just remembered something, do not talk to cops.
Checking my notes real quick, something jumped out at me:
Do not fucking talk to cops. Ever.
Say, “I don’t answer questions,” and ask if you’re free to leave; if so, leave. If not, tell them you want your lawyer and that, per the Supreme Court, they must terminate questioning. If they don’t, file a complaint and collect some badges for your mantle.
Do the bastards ever help?
Reading the above, you may be tempted to ask whether cops ever do anything good. And the answer is, sure, sometimes. In fact, most officers I worked with thought they were usually helping the helpless and protecting the safety of innocent people.
During my tenure in law enforcement, I protected women from domestic abusers, arrested cold-blooded murderers and child molesters, and comforted families who lost children to car accidents and other tragedies. I helped connect struggling people in my community with local resources for food, shelter, and counseling. I deescalated situations that could have turned violent and talked a lot of people down from making the biggest mistake of their lives. I worked with plenty of officers who were individually kind, bought food for homeless residents, or otherwise showed care for their community.
The question is this: did I need a gun and sweeping police powers to help the average person on the average night? The answer is no. When I was doing my best work as a cop, I was doing mediocre work as a therapist or a social worker. My good deeds were listening to people failed by the system and trying to unite them with any crumbs of resources the structure was currently denying them.
It’s also important to note that well over 90 percent of the calls for service I handled were reactive, showing up well after a crime had taken place. We would arrive, take a statement, collect evidence (if any), file the report, and onto the next caper. Most “active” crimes we stopped were someone harmless possessing or selling a small amount of drugs. Very, very rarely would we stop something dangerous in progress or stop something from happening entirely. The closest we could usually get was seeing someone running away from the scene of a crime, but the damage was still done.
And consider this: my job as a police officer required me to be a marriage counselor, a mental health crisis professional, a conflict negotiator, a social worker, a child advocate, a traffic safety expert, a sexual assault specialist, and, every once in awhile, a public safety officer authorized to use force, all after only a 1000 hours of training at a police academy. Does the person we send to catch a robber also need to be the person we send to interview a rape victim or document a fender bender? Should one profession be expected to do all that important community care (with very little training) all at the same time?
To put this another way: I made double the salary most social workers made to do a fraction of what they could do to mitigate the causes of crimes and desperation. I can count very few times my monopoly on state violence actually made our citizens safer, and even then, it’s hard to say better-funded social safety nets and dozens of other community care specialists wouldn’t have prevented a problem before it started.
Armed, indoctrinated (and dare I say, traumatized) cops do not make you safer; community mutual aid networks who can unite other people with the resources they need to stay fed, clothed, and housed make you safer. I really want to hammer this home: every cop in your neighborhood is damaged by their training, emboldened by their immunity, and they have a gun and the ability to take your life with near-impunity. This does not make you safer, even if you’re white.
How do you solve a problem like a bastard?
So, what do we do about it? Even though I’m an expert on bastardism, I am not a public policy expert nor an expert in organizing a post-police society. So, before I give some suggestions, let me tell you what probably won’t solve the problem of bastard cops:
· Increased “bias” training. A quarterly or even monthly training session is not capable of covering over years of trauma-based camaraderie in police forces. I can tell you from experience, we don’t take it seriously, the proctors let us cheat on whatever “tests” there are, and we all made fun of it later over coffee.
· Tougher laws. I hope you understand by now, cops do not follow the law and will not hold each other accountable to the law. Tougher laws are all the more reason to circle the wagons and protect your brothers and sisters.
· More community policing programs. Yes, there is a marginal effect when a few cops get to know members of the community, but look at the protests of 2020: many of the cops pepper-spraying journalists were probably the nice school cop a month ago.
Police officers do not protect and serve people, they protect and serve the status quo, “polite society,” and private property. Using the incremental mechanisms of the status quo will never reform the police because the status quo relies on police violence to exist. Capitalism requires a permanent underclass to exploit for cheap labor and it requires the cops to bring that underclass to heel.
Instead of wasting time with minor tweaks, I recommend exploring the following ideas:
· No more qualified immunity. Police officers should be personally liable for all decisions they make in the line of duty.
· No more civil asset forfeiture. Did you know that every year, citizens like you lose more cash and property to unaccountable civil asset forfeiture than to all burglaries combined? The police can steal your stuff without charging you with a crime and it makes some police departments very rich.
· Break the power of police unions. Police unions make it nearly impossible to fire bad cops and incentivize protecting them to protect the power of the union. A police union is not a labor union; police officers are powerful state agents, not exploited workers.
· Require malpractice insurance. Doctors must pay for insurance in case they botch a surgery, police officers should do the same for botching a police raid or other use of force. If human decency won’t motivate police to respect human life, perhaps hitting their wallet might.
· Defund, demilitarize, and disarm cops. Thousands of police departments own assault rifles, armored personnel carriers, and stuff you’d see in a warzone. Police officers have grants and huge budgets to spend on guns, ammo, body armor, and combat training. 99 percent of calls for service require no armed response, yet when all you have is a gun, every problem feels like target practice. Cities are not safer when unaccountable bullies have a monopoly on state violence and the equipment to execute that monopoly.
One final idea: consider abolishing the police.
I know what you’re thinking, “What? We need the police! They protect us!” As someone who did it for nearly a decade, I need you to understand that by and large, police protection is marginal, incidental. It’s an illusion created by decades of copaganda designed to fool you into thinking these brave men and women are holding back the barbarians at the gates.
I alluded to this above: the vast majority of calls for service I handled were theft reports, burglary reports, domestic arguments that hadn’t escalated into violence, loud parties, (houseless) people loitering, traffic collisions, very minor drug possession, and arguments between neighbors. Mostly the mundane ups and downs of life in the community, with little inherent danger. And, like I mentioned, the vast majority of crimes I responded to (even violent ones) had already happened; my unaccountable license to kill was irrelevant.
What I mainly provided was an “objective” third party with the authority to document property damage, ask people to chill out or disperse, or counsel people not to beat each other up. A trained counselor or conflict resolution specialist would be ten-times more effective than someone with a gun strapped to his hip wondering if anyone would try to kill him when he showed up. There are many models for community safety that can be explored if we get away from the idea that the only way to be safe is to have a man with a M4 rifle prowling your neighborhood ready at a moment’s notice to write down your name and birthday after you’ve been robbed and beaten.
You might be asking, “What about the armed robbers, the gangsters, the drug dealers, the serial killers?” And yes, in the city I worked, I regularly broke up gang parties, found gang members carrying guns, and handled homicides. I’ve seen some tragic things, from a reformed gangster shot in the head with his brains oozing out to a fifteen-year-old boy taking his last breath in his screaming mother’s arms thanks to a gang member’s bullet. I know the wages of violence.
This is where we have to have the courage to ask: why do people rob? Why do they join gangs? Why do they get addicted to drugs or sell them? It’s not because they are inherently evil. I submit to you that these are the results of living in a capitalist system that grinds people down and denies them housing, medical care, human dignity, and a say in their government. These are the results of white supremacy pushing people to the margins, excluding them, disrespecting them, and treating their bodies as disposable.
Equally important to remember—disabled and mentally ill people are frequently killed by police officers not trained to recognize and react to disabilities or mental health crises. Some of the people we picture as “violent offenders” are often people struggling with untreated mental illness, often due to economic hardships. Very frequently, the officers sent to “protect the community” escalate this crisis and ultimately wound or kill the person. Your community was not made safer by police violence; a sick member of your community was killed because it was cheaper than treating them. Are you extremely confident you’ll never get sick one day too?
Wrestle with this for a minute: if all of someone’s material needs were met and all the members of their community were fed, clothed, housed, and dignified, why would they need to join a gang? Why would they need to risk their lives selling drugs or breaking into buildings? If mental healthcare was free and was not stigmatized, how many lives would that save?
Would there still be a few bad actors in the world? Sure, probably. What’s my solution for them, you’re no doubt asking. I’ll tell you what: generational poverty, food insecurity, houselessness, and for-profit medical care are all problems that can be solved in our lifetimes by rejecting the dehumanizing meat grinder of capitalism and white supremacy. Once that’s done, we can work on the edge cases together, with clearer hearts not clouded by a corrupt system.
Police abolition is closely related to the idea of prison abolition and the entire concept of banishing the carceral state, meaning, creating a society focused on reconciliation and restorative justice instead of punishment, pain, and suffering—a system that sees people in crisis as humans, not monsters. People who want to abolish the police typically also want to abolish prisons, and the same questions get asked: “What about the bad guys? Where do we put them?” I bring this up because abolitionists don’t want to simply replace cops with armed social workers or prisons with casual detention centers full of puffy leather couches and Playstations. We imagine a world not divided into good guys and bad guys, but rather a world where people’s needs are met and those in crisis receive care, not dehumanization.
Here’s legendary activist and thinker Angela Y. Davis putting it better than I ever could:
“An abolitionist approach that seeks to answer questions such as these would require us to imagine a constellation of alternative strategies and institutions, with the ultimate aim of removing the prison from the social and ideological landscapes of our society. In other words, we would not be looking for prisonlike substitutes for the prison, such as house arrest safeguarded by electronic surveillance bracelets. Rather, positing decarceration as our overarching strategy, we would try to envision a continuum of alternatives to imprisonment—demilitarization of schools, revitalization of education at all levels, a health system that provides free physical and mental care to all, and a justice system based on reparation and reconciliation rather than retribution and vengeance.” (Are Prisons Obsolete, pg. 107)
I’m not telling you I have the blueprint for a beautiful new world. What I’m telling you is that the system we have right now is broken beyond repair and that it’s time to consider new ways of doing community together. Those new ways need to be negotiated by members of those communities, particularly Black, indigenous, disabled, houseless, and citizens of color historically shoved into the margins of society. Instead of letting Fox News fill your head with nightmares about Hispanic gangs, ask the Hispanic community what they need to thrive. Instead of letting racist politicians scaremonger about pro-Black demonstrators, ask the Black community what they need to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. If you truly desire safety, ask not what your most vulnerable can do for the community, ask what the community can do for the most vulnerable.
A world with fewer bastards is possible
If you take only one thing away from this essay, I hope it’s this: do not talk to cops. But if you only take two things away, I hope the second one is that it’s possible to imagine a different world where unarmed Black people, indigenous people, poor people, disabled people, and people of color are not routinely gunned down by unaccountable police officers. It doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, this requires a leap of faith into community models that might feel unfamiliar, but I ask you:
When you see a man dying in the street begging for breath, don’t you want to leap away from that world?
When you see a mother or a daughter shot to death sleeping in their beds, don’t you want to leap away from that world?
When you see a twelve-year-old boy executed in a public park for the crime of playing with a toy, Jesus fucking Christ, can you really just stand there and think “This is normal?”
And to any cops who made it this far down, is this really the world you want to live in? Aren’t you tired of the trauma? Aren’t you tired of the soul sickness inherent to the badge? Aren’t you tired of looking the other way when your partners break the law? Are you really willing to kill the next George Floyd, the next Breonna Taylor, the next Tamir Rice? How confident are you that your next use of force will be something you’re proud of? I’m writing this for you too: it’s wrong what our training did to us, it’s wrong that they hardened our hearts to our communities, and it’s wrong to pretend this is normal.
Look, I wouldn’t have been able to hear any of this for much of my life. You, reading this now, may not be able to hear this yet either. But do me this one favor: just think about it. Just turn it over in your mind for a couple minutes. “Yes, And” me for a minute. Look around you and think about the kind of world you want to live in. Is it one where an all-powerful stranger with a gun keeps you and your neighbors in line with the fear of death, or can you picture a world where, as a community, we embrace our most vulnerable, meet their needs, heal their wounds, honor their dignity, and make them family instead of desperate outsiders?
If you take only three things away from this essay, I hope the third is this: you and your community don’t need bastards to thrive.
By James B. Stewart, Sept. 29, 2020
From left: Michael Cohen; Michael Flynn; Paul Manafort; Roger Stone. These former associates of President Trump have been convicted of various crimes. In “Big Dirty Money,” Jennifer Taub examines our justice system’s history of leniency toward white collar criminality. Credit...From left: Craig Ruttle/Associated Press; Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images; Shawn Thew/EPA, via Shutterstock; Shawn Thew/EPA, via Shutterstock
BIG DIRTY MONEY
The Shocking Injustice and Unseen Cost of White Collar Crime
By Jennifer Taub
298 pp. Viking. $28
Donald Trump is not the ostensible subject of “Big Dirty Money,” Jennifer Taub’s polemic against America’s failure to curb the destructive criminal tendencies of the very rich. Yet the president, his friends and former Trump campaign and administration officials parade through these pages. The latest example may be Steve Bannon, Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, whose arrest in August on fraud charges came too late for inclusion in Taub’s book.
Trump is very rich, although how rich remains a subject of investigation, given the wildly varying and self-serving values he’s assigned his many real estate assets. He has escaped the consequences of what amounts to a lifetime of dubious business dealings. As Taub, a law professor at Western New England University, writes, “Trump took advantage of a system that gives first, second, third and seemingly infinite chances to the elite.”
As president, he has been investigated, impeached, tried and summarily acquitted for high crimes and misdemeanors over his dealings with Ukraine and attempts to impede Congress. Trump also oversees the Justice Department and its investigations of white-collar crime, including cases involving many of his friends and associates. It should thus be no surprise that white-collar prosecutions on his watch have plummeted. He hasn’t hesitated to enlist his compliant attorney general, William P. Barr, in the effort to gain leniency for friends like his former campaign adviser Roger Stone and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Both were accused of lying under oath — one of the most common crimes committed by the wealthy and well connected.
The president wields the power of the pardon, and Trump has freely used it on behalf of wealthy white-collar criminals. He did so earlier this year for Michael Milken and Eddie DeBartolo Jr., sending a powerful message that white-collar crimes don’t really matter, even though white-collar crime in America “costs victims an estimated $300 billion to $800 billion per year,” Taub reports, while “street-level ‘property’ crimes, including burglary, larceny and theft, cost us far less — around $16 billion annually, according to the F.B.I.”
Trump is a stark illustration of why so few wealthy malefactors are held accountable. Like other members of the .01 percent, he can act with seeming impunity, able to buy or influence his way out of trouble. He empathizes with rich people who run afoul of the law. He minimizes their guilt, suggesting white-collar crimes aren’t really crimes, especially when the accused are white men, as the vast majority of all rich white-collar criminals are. Yet Trump is a symptom, not the cause.
Taub is hardly the first author to call attention to the American justice system’s curious indifference to white-collar crime, apart from occasional spasms of attention triggered by populist indignation. Brandon L. Garrett’s “Too Big to Jail” (2014) and John C. Coffee Jr.’s “Corporate Crime and Punishment: The Crisis of Underenforcement” (2020) are excellent examples.
But Taub explicitly and persuasively places the breakdown of enforcement and accountability in the context of money and class. She notes that the phrase “white-collar crime” was coined in 1939 by the sociologist Edwin Sutherland to describe an offense committed by “a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.” This association with respectability manifests itself throughout the justice system. Prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges are largely white, well-educated, affluent men and, increasingly, women, who, consciously or not, Taub suggests, identify with the white-collar defendants who come within their purview.
Asked about the startling lack of high-profile criminal cases after the 2008 financial crisis, Lanny Breuer, who served as the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division during the Obama administration, told “Frontline” that the department looked “hard” at potential cases but couldn’t prove intent. “That’s the old standby excuse in any white-collar case,” Taub maintains.
Attorney General Barr identified lack of intent as a key factor in his swift exoneration of President Trump on obstruction of justice charges, an issue the special counsel Robert Mueller had said he couldn’t resolve.
Intent is a subjective standard, and usually must be inferred: Hardly any accused criminals admit they acted intentionally, with a guilty state of mind. Yet the jurors in the 2004 trial of Martha Stewart, to cite just one of Taub’s case studies, had no trouble inferring intent in finding Stewart guilty of lying to federal officials in connection with her suspiciously timed stock trades. (That case was brought by then United States Attorney James Comey, who was fired by Trump as the director of the F.B.I. after he turned up the heat on the investigation of the Trump administration’s contacts with Russia.)
Taub poses a simple question and a provocative thesis: Why don’t more prosecutors just lay out the facts about intent and let juries decide? Isn’t it because on some level their empathy with the affluent, high-ranking executives they’re investigating prevents them from doing so?
Needless to say, such delicate issues of intent rarely arise in petty street crimes.
A defendant’s social and economic status is even more obvious at sentencing. One might think that a person with all the wealth and advantages that society confers might be deemed more, rather than less, culpable than ordinary street criminals. On the contrary, many judges seem to believe that a fall from grace is punishment enough, especially since white-collar defendants (often older white men) pose little danger to society, at least with respect to committing violent crimes.
Some judges seem to shudder at the thought of people like themselves in prison. Taub suggests that they feel the prison environment is tougher for white-collar criminals than the presumably more streetwise non-white-collar ones.
Although the conviction and sentencing of Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen happened too recently for Taub to mention, Cohen seems a classic beneficiary of judiciary deference. Sentenced to three years in prison for campaign finance violations and lying to Congress, Cohen was released early to home confinement out of concern he might contract Covid-19. Soon after, he was photographed dining at the posh Le Bilboquet restaurant near his Park Avenue apartment.
Paul Manafort, another Trump crony, faced 19 to 24 years in prison in one of two cases against him, for an array of crimes including tax fraud and money laundering. After noting Manafort’s “otherwise blameless life,” the judge in the case gave him just four years in prison. (He was sentenced to an additional three and a half years in the second case.) But no matter: Like Cohen, Manafort was released early over Covid-19 concerns. Trump has said repeatedly that Manafort’s prosecution was unfair.
Or consider Taub’s account of Deborah Kelley, a broker who admitted to paying more than $100,000 in bribes to a portfolio manager with New York’s giant state pension fund and then lying about it. She faced up to five years in prison, but instead was sentenced to home confinement and probation because the judge thought she was “a good person.”
“Such empathy rarely extends to the burglar or the small-time drug dealer,” Taub notes. “The lack of similar concern for poor offenders is astonishing,” she says. By this juncture, readers’ blood may have reached the boiling point. They’re unlikely to cool down after Taub turns to a list of six possible solutions — from creating a new Justice Department division focused on “big money criminals” to extending protections for investigative journalists and whistle-blowers. These are earnest and well intentioned but small bore given the scope of the problem she so vividly illustrates.
Solving it will require a broad shift in an American culture that celebrates the accumulation of wealth and too often turns a blind eye to — or even glorifies — the success of the white-collar criminal.
In some families buckling under the caregiving burden, the lower wage earner is leaving the workforce. Usually that’s the wife.
By Alisha Haridasani Gupta, Oct. 3, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/03/us/jobs-women-dropping-out-workforce-wage-gap-gender.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage
“The bigger the wage gap across spouses, the smaller the labor supply of the secondary earner, which is typically the wife.” — Stefania Albanesi, an economics professor at the University of Pittsburgh
The September jobs numbers, released by the Labor Department on Friday, confirmed what economists and experts had feared: The recession unleashed by the pandemic is sidelining hundreds of thousands of women and wiping out the hard-fought gains they made in the workplace over the past few years.
While the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 7.9 percent in September, far below the record high of nearly 15 percent in April, a large part of that drop was driven not so much by economic growth — though there were some job gains — but by hundreds of thousands of people leaving the job market altogether.
A majority of those dropping out were women. Of the 1.1 million people ages 20 and over who left the work force (neither working nor looking for work) between August and September, over 800,000 were women, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center. That figure includes 324,000 Latinas and 58,000 Black women. For comparison, 216,000 men left the job market in the same time period.
From the start of the pandemic, the job losses among women have been a direct result of the collapse of female-dominated industries like hospitality, education, entertainment and even some parts of the health care system.
But even as parts of the economy stirred back to life, recent data suggests that some women are actually beginning to opt out.
One of the key factors in their decision? The persistent gender wage gap, experts said.
“The earnings gap issue is a big part of the story at this point,” said Stefania Albanesi, an economics professor at the University of Pittsburgh who has studied gender inequalities in the work force.
Throughout the year, there have been signs of women buckling under the burden of unpaid labor while juggling full-time jobs. A report from Lean In and McKinsey & Company, published in September, found that of 40,000 women surveyed across corporate America between May and August, 1 in 4 was contemplating resigning or downshifting her career — perhaps going part time, leaving for a less demanding job or finding a job with better work-life balance.
As the caregiving burden increased, with many schools and child care centers still shuttered heading into the fall, many women — particularly white women — made the decision to bow out of the work force.
The labor participation rate in September among white women ages 20 and older was 56.3 percent, down from 58.3 percent in the same period last year. For Black women, it was 59.8 percent, down from 62 percent last September, and the participation rate for Hispanic or Latina women was 57 percent, down from 61 percent a year earlier.
“White families tend to have higher wealth and higher average income so they can afford to reduce labor supply, compared to most African-American households, where earnings are quite low,” Professor Albanesi said.
When making the decision as to who will look after kids or sick family members, it only makes economic sense for the higher-wage earner to go back to work or keep working, Professor Albanesi explained, and in a dual-income household, more often than not, the higher-wage earner is a man.
“The bigger the wage gap across spouses, the smaller the labor supply of the secondary earner, which is typically the wife,” she said.
Dropping out of the work force completely has long-term consequences not just for the woman trying to re-enter the work force down the line but also for women’s overall position in the work force, said Matthias Doepke, an economics professor at Northwestern University who is the co-author of a report published in August about the gendered impacts of this economic recession.
“First of all, it takes some time to find a new job,” Professor Doepke said, “but what’s actually more important is that it’s even more difficult to find a job that is comparable and to get back to the same career position.”
“So we see that even decades after a recession, people who lost their jobs often have low earnings,” he added.
That, in turn, has an impact on the wage gap. According to Professor Doepke’s research, this recession will likely widen that gap by five percentage points, further perpetuating the conditions that drove women out of the workplace this year.
When women do step out of the work force, whether it’s because they were laid off or because they stepped out voluntarily, they are more likely to stay out of the work force longer, said Kweilin Ellingrud, a senior partner at McKinsey and co-author of its report with Lean In. “That is a very worrisome story.”
“We’ve now lost a lot of ground that we had gained very, very slowly over the last decade,” she added.
Francesca Donner contributed reporting.
Gov. Kay Ivey offered to have state officials meet with lawyers for a maimed survivor of an infamous racist attack in Birmingham to discuss restitution for an “egregious injustice.”
By Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Oct. 3, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/03/us/1963-church-bombing-apology.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage
Sarah Collins Rudolph had appealed to local and state leaders in Alabama for years, asking for some form of restitution, after the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. The explosion blinded her right eye, killed her sister and three other girls, and started a struggle with injuries and trauma that weighs on Ms. Rudolph to this day.
This week, after 57 years, a formal apology from the governor of Alabama brought her one step closer to resolution.
The victims and their families “suffered an egregious injustice that has yielded untold pain and suffering over the ensuing decades,” Gov. Kay Ivey wrote in a letter dated Wednesday. “For that, they most certainly deserve a sincere, heartfelt apology — an apology that I extend today without hesitation or reservation.”
Lawyers representing Ms. Rudolph, 69, said that while the apology was extremely significant and meaningful to their client, an Alabama native, it was only part of what was needed. In a Sept. 14 letter to the governor, they called on the state not just to apologize but also to compensate Ms. Rudolph “to right the wrongs that its past leaders encouraged and incited.”
Ishan Bhabha, one of her lawyers, said on Saturday that the quest for restitution had always been a “two-part endeavor.”
He said that Ms. Rudolph lives with physical disabilities resulting from the explosion that have curtailed her opportunities in life and that she has tremendous medical bills to pay, adding that the explosion had “put her life on a fundamentally different track.”
Ms. Rudolph still bears the scars from when dynamite exploded at the church, killing four Black girls: Denise McNair, who was 11, and Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Addie Mae Collins, Ms. Rudolph’s sister, who were 14.
She spent more than a month in the hospital, missing her sister’s funeral, after surgeons had removed more than 20 shards of glass from her body. It took a long time before she was able to talk openly about being the “fifth girl” in the infamous bombing of the church by Ku Klux Klan members, Ms. Rudolph said in an interview in September. The explosion, she said, “shook the whole city of Birmingham.”
In her letter of apology on Wednesday, which was addressed to Mr. Bhabha, Ms. Ivey wrote that the day of the bombing, “Sept. 15, 1963, was one of the darkest days in Alabama’s history.” But she wrote that “many would question whether the State can be held legally responsible for what happened at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church so long ago.”
Mr. Bhabha said that while Alabama is very different today than it was in 1963, when the governor, George Wallace, was promising “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” the state had still played a crucial role in the attacks by protecting those responsible for years afterward. The first defendant in the case was not convicted until 1977, and others not until after the turn of the century.
“You don’t have those kinds of events without an environment created to facilitate them,” Mr. Bhabha said.
Ms. Ivey’s letter did not close the door to restitution. She suggested that lawyers from her office and the State Legislature meet with Ms. Rudolph’s representatives to discuss the issue further. Alison Stein, another of Ms. Rudolph’s lawyers, said they were looking forward to a “cooperative process” with the governor’s office.
The bombing of the church attracted national outrage at a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement, thrusting the horrors of racism into the spotlight and influencing future legislation. The governor’s apology comes at another moment when violence against Black Americans is in the national spotlight, and outraged demonstrators have taken to the streets to condemn systemic racism.
Now, “some measure of justice” for Ms. Rudolph is finally achievable, Mr. Bhabha said.
Allyson Waller contributed reporting.
Soon, a wave of people will have been out of work for more than six months, the threshold for long-term unemployment.
By Jeanna Smialek, Ben Casselman and Gillian Friedman, Oct. 3, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/03/business/economy/coronavirus-permanent-job-losses.html
The United States economy is facing a tidal wave of long-term unemployment as millions of people who lost jobs early in the pandemic remain out of work six months later and job losses increasingly turn permanent.
The Labor Department said on Friday that 2.4 million people had been out of work for 27 weeks or more, the threshold it uses to define long-term joblessness. An even bigger surge is on the way: Nearly five million people are approaching long-term joblessness over the next two months. The same report showed that even as temporary layoffs were on the decline, permanent job losses were rising sharply.
Those two problems — rising long-term unemployment and permanent job losses — are separate but intertwined and, together, could foreshadow a period of prolonged economic damage and financial pain for American families.
Companies that are limping along below capacity this far into the crisis may be increasingly unlikely to ever recall their employees. History also suggests the longer that people are out of work, the harder it is for them to get back into a job.
To be sure, the labor market has bounced back more quickly than most forecasters expected in the spring. The unemployment rate dropped to 7.9 percent in September from 14.7 percent in April. But progress has slowed, and there are signs of more lasting damage. Through September, the economy had regained only about half of the 22 million jobs it lost between February and April.
High-interaction businesses like restaurants, theaters, casinos, conferences and cruises are struggling to fully reopen as the coronavirus continues to spread, leaving many workers out of jobs.
Disney announced this past week that it would lay off 28,000 U.S. employees as its theme parks struggle. Layoff notices filed with state authorities show that hospitality and service companies across the country, from P.F. Chang’s restaurant branches to Gap stores, are making thousands of long-term staff reductions. Airport bookstores in Pennsylvania and Tennessee are cutting jobs as travel dwindles. So are wineries and upscale sports clubs in California.
Airline job cuts run to the tens of thousands. American Airlines started to send furlough notices to 19,000 workers and United Airlines to 13,000 after a federal moratorium expired on Thursday. Those are on top of reductions at other carriers, and existing firings across the industry.
Altogether, nearly 3.8 million people had lost their jobs permanently in September, according to the Labor Department’s latest monthly survey, almost twice as many as at the height of the pandemic job losses, in April.
As a result, the employment rebound, which was initially rapid, may begin to feel more like the grinding healing process that dragged on for a full decade after the Great Recession, economists warned.
“The risk is that you end up with people permanently detached from the labor market, and either you never get them back in or it takes you 10 years to get them back in, like it did the last time,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist of Pantheon Macroeconomics. “The economic consequences are that you depress future growth.”
The slow recovery from the Great Recession, when the tally of the long-term unemployed neared seven million, made it clear that extended spells out of work can haunt workers, locking them out of job opportunities or reducing pay.
Whether that penalty holds true in the pandemic-induced downturn remains unclear, but the economic repercussions of having a large number of workers sidelined will undoubtedly weigh on the United States’ economic potential and disrupt lives.
Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, has warned that a “significant group” of people may “still be struggling to find jobs” even as the labor market strengthens.
Longer-term unemployment can be “very damaging to people’s lives and their working lives,” Mr. Powell said at a news conference this year.
The risk of permanent job loss weighs heavily on workers like MacKenzie Nicholson of Nottingham, N.H., who lost her job with the American Cancer Society in June after the pandemic cut into the organization’s fund-raising. Her husband, a service manager at a Jeep dealership, kept his job after a brief furlough, but his income is not enough to cover their monthly expenses.
Ms. Nicholson plans to start picking up gig shifts with DoorDash and Uber in the evenings, once her husband gets home from work and can take over watching their two young children.
“I’ll be saying goodbye to my husband when he gets in the door,” she said. “It won’t be ideal for our marriage.”
It’s hard for Ms. Nicholson, 30, to square the anxiety over meeting basic needs with the life she had one year ago, when she and her husband bought their first home, providing a sense of security. Now their mortgage payment feels like an albatross, and a simple trip to Target feels out of reach.
“My daughter ran out of toothpaste and I put it on the shopping list, and then realized we could use the sample bottles we get from the dentist to hold out for a few weeks,” Ms. Nicholson said. “I’m making disgusting casseroles with everything I have in the fridge so I don’t have to go grocery shopping.”
Lasting joblessness is a comparatively new problem in the United States. Europe, where social safety nets are more generous and labor rules are stricter, has long had high rates of extended unemployment. But economists once thought that the United States’ less restrictive, more dynamic labor market made it relatively immune. Even in the brutal recessions of the early 1980s, when the unemployment rate topped 10 percent, less than a quarter of job seekers had remained out of work longer than six months.
That has changed in recent decades, as the sluggish “jobless recoveries” that followed the past three recessions left a large share of workers unable to find jobs for months or years. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, nearly half of all job seekers had been unemployed long term. Many younger people dropped out of the job market altogether, while long-term unemployment for workers older than 50 stayed at high levels for years.
This is a very different crisis, both in swiftness and in breadth. Workers in entire industries were furloughed practically overnight, with little regard for their unique skills and performance. Employers may not fault future applicants for those lost jobs.
“It’s not clear to me that anyone’s going to hold it against you that you were an unemployed waiter for nine months,” said Jay Shambaugh, a George Washington University economist.
But there is mounting evidence that the long-term jobless will face a harder road back to work. In August, newly unemployed workers — out of work less than five weeks — were twice as likely to find jobs as those out of work more than six months.
Many people who aren’t looking for work now because they believe they are on temporary layoff may find that their jobs never return. They may be “frozen in place by the uncertainty of not knowing what the economy is going to look like,” said Thomas Barkin, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
If losses do turn permanent, it’s unclear how quickly workers will be able to shift into new roles. People with similar backgrounds tend to apply for similar jobs, which could lead to a glut of available workers in categories that lack the demand to absorb them.
Jose Martinez, 47, a houseman at the DoubleTree Metropolitan hotel in Midtown Manhattan for 26 years, remains hopeful he will retain his job. He was laid off in April, and despite several setbacks, he said he expects to return this coming week because his union contract requires that workers be brought back according to tenure. His wife also works at the hotel, but she has not been there for as long and is more likely to remain out of work longer.
“There are hotels that are closing, but it’s mostly the smaller hotels,” Mr. Martinez said. “I have faith that I’ll be back at work.”
Nathaniel Claridad is less certain what the future holds, though he, too, hopes for a return to normalcy. He was acting in a show in Florida when Broadway closed. Days later, the artistic director informed him and the rest of the cast and crew that they were free to go — they were shutting down as well.
Fast forward six months and Mr. Claridad, who had another show and a concert postponed and saw his job selling tickets at a Midtown theater wilt away, remains unemployed. He’s current on rent for the Washington Heights apartment he shares with his employed partner, and he’s hopeful that his shows will take place in 2021 — but he’s starting to pick up Zoom directing gigs here and there, and he is applying to teaching jobs.
“It’s getting to the time now where I have to decide what to do, in terms of income,” Mr. Claridad, 38, said. But there are downsides to looking for work when your colleagues with similar skill sets are doing the same.
“Talking with friends, it feels like the market is saturated with people like me who are looking for another source of income,” he said.
Labor supply also remains an issue. Employers report that many workers, including those who are older, are nervous about returning given the health threat. People with children, particularly women, are struggling to return to jobs because they have limited child care options with schools and day cares all or partly closed.
Women’s participation rate — the share working or looking for work — dropped last month to its lowest level since 1987, excluding April and May this year. The household employment survey suggested that they might have lost more than 140,000 jobs in September, though a separate survey of businesses showed them still eking out gains.
The people most at risk of getting stuck on the sidelines in this crisis are in many cases those least prepared to take the hit.
Minority groups have seen bigger spikes in unemployment during the pandemic era — and getting back to work is taking them longer, suggesting that they are likely to make up a disproportionate share of the long-term unemployed.
Black joblessness jumped higher earlier in the recession and is declining more slowly than that for white workers: It stood at 12.1 percent in September, compared with 7 percent for white adults. Hispanic unemployment jumped at the onset of the crisis but is declining relatively quickly. Even so, it stood at 10.3 percent last month.
Those groups hold far less wealth, so they are less financially prepared for a long period out of work.
For now, unemployment is falling across demographic groups as layoffs end, and some economists are hopeful that the rebound will continue — though most warn that recovery will remain incomplete until the virus is under control.
Mr. Barkin at the Richmond Fed is urging communities and policymakers to think about retraining options now, in recognition that some share of the work force may find that its old skills are obsolete.
“It’s a virtual certainty that there are going to be large scarring effects for workers in certain industries,” said Alicia Sasser Modestino, an economist at Northeastern University. “What will those workers do with the skill sets that they have?”
The way medical professionals are paid keeps structural racism alive. It’s unethical and it must change.
By Amol S. Navathe and Harald Schmidt, Dr. Navathe and Dr. Schmidt are professors of health policy, Oct. 6, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/06/opinion/medical-racism-payment-models.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Doctors like to do good. They also like to make money. Technically, the ways in which physicians are paid are “colorblind.” Despite this, they contribute to inequality. It’s time to fix payment models that don’t address Covid-19’s disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities and don’t align with broader efforts to make health care fair.
Research shows that doctors are more likely to choose procedures and treatments that are more profitable for them, whether these are better for patients or not. For example, cancer doctors frequently recommend higher-cost chemotherapy because they profit handsomely from it. And hospitals do more of the kinds of surgeries that come with high profit margins, like hip and knee replacements and heart valve procedures, while limiting unprofitable services like psychiatry wards either by keeping only a small number of spots for patients or by simply not offering a dedicated psychiatry ward at all.
The approach used most frequently by health insurers to remedy this is to financially motivate hospitals to control costs and improve quality by tying payments to achieving these goals. The aim is laudable and some programs do benefit disadvantaged populations. The Pennsylvania Rural Health Model, for example, is a collaborative effort by Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurers to provide a fixed payment to rural hospitals each year for all the health care services they provide. Because they’re receiving a fixed payment, hospitals can worry less about which services are more profitable and instead focus on preserving access and improving care for rural populations, whose health outcomes have lagged behind those of urban counterparts.
But because a vast majority of programs that tie payment to cost and quality goals aren’t focused on disadvantaged populations, they create incentives for hospitals to avoid patients from these groups.
For example, in the 1990s, the New York State Department of Health began grading surgeons who performed coronary bypass surgery and making their report cards available to the general public. The aim was to make outcomes more transparent and to help surgeons improve. But to this day, the initiative makes it harder for Black patients to get surgery. Why? Because statistically, outcomes are generally worse for Black patients because of larger issues of systemic racism. So surgeons avoid them to protect their scores.
Or consider the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, which penalizes hospitals for excessive re-hospitalization. Again, the intention is noble: to discourage hospitals from skimping on care in a patients’ initial hospitalization such that the patient returns to the hospital soon after being discharged. But since people with worse living and working conditions are readmitted more frequently, hospitals that serve more worse-off racial and ethnic minorities were more frequently penalized.
There are also so-called value-based payment reforms, under which physician groups and hospitals get bonuses if patients use less health care overall but still improve their health. If a patient is hospitalized too many times or fails to get blood pressure under control, the physician group or hospital must pay a penalty — kind of like a fine. These reforms have been adopted by Medicare (because the Affordable Care Act required it) and private insurers. They have rapidly become more popular over the past decade.
While this does have its benefits, it also means that sicker patients who need more care or those who face other challenges, like not having a caregiver at home, become economically unattractive to hospitals. That’s why fewer value-based initiatives have been taken up in communities that are home to more people of color or are worse off economically. And where such initiatives are offered, patients who belong to minority populations are more likely to be shunned at the expense of better-off white ones whom doctors see as likely to have better outcomes.
With each of these types of payment models, the initial intention regarding social justice may be unclear, unknown or even aimed at promoting it. A value-based payment reform model seems as innocent as a daisy and worlds apart from the most overt forms of structural racism, such as segregated transportation or drinking fountains. Yet, far too often, such models share the consequence of systematically disadvantaging some groups, whether as a result of the design of policies or culturally ingrained behavioral patterns.
So what can be done?
First, an explicit and integral goal of all payment reforms adopted by public and private health insurers should be to reduce racial disparities in patient health outcomes. When payment is tied to the achievement of pre-defined goals, those goals should include making health care better for disadvantaged populations and more fair overall.
Second, all payment reform programs should be subject to disparate-impact monitoring. Chiefly, this entails the insurers, including the federal and state governments, measuring and documenting the extent to which access to care of structurally disadvantaged populations is affected. This should include expedited reporting and data collection to “sense” changes in health care access and quality for minority populations more rapidly.
Third, we need a complete and detailed picture of the full extent to which payment reforms are conduits, or barriers, in reducing health disparities and structural racism. Building on related work by the National Academy of Medicine and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, similar groups should inventory the current landscape and make concrete recommendations for action.
The expression “Money talks” is typically used to mean that those who are better off are able to get what they want and deserve. Equity-oriented payment reforms can make money talk in a different way, a way that makes physicians and hospitals see every patient’s life as equally worth saving.
Amol S. Navathe and Harald Schmidt are assistant professors of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 2009, a transit officer fatally shot Oscar Grant III in the back in Oakland, setting off protests over the police treatment of Black people. A district attorney said she would reopen the investigation.
By Daniel Victor, Oct. 6, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/06/us/oscar-grant-investigation.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage
A street-side memorial to the shooting victim Oscar Grant in Oakland, Calif., in 2010. Credit...Paul Sakuma/Associated Press
The district attorney in Alameda County, Calif., said on Monday that she would reopen an investigation into the 2009 killing of Oscar Grant III, an event that spurred mass protests in Oakland and more than a decade of calls for justice after he was fatally shot in the back by a transit officer.
As one of the first fatal police shootings to be filmed on cellphone cameras and spread widely on social media, the death of the 22-year-old Mr. Grant, who was Black, has long festered in the Bay Area and beyond as an example of police brutality. Responding to a fight on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train, a white transit officer, Johannes Mehserle, shot Mr. Grant on New Year’s Day while he was lying facedown, unarmed, on a train platform at the Fruitvale Station.
Mr. Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2010 and served 11 months in prison. Supporters of Mr. Grant, including his family, have long felt that justice was not achieved.
The district attorney, Nancy O’Malley, said in a statement Monday that her office had “listened closely to the requests of the family of Oscar Grant.”
“I have assigned a team of lawyers to look back into the circumstances that caused the death of Oscar Grant,” she said. “We will evaluate the evidence and the law, including the applicable law at the time and the statute of limitations and make a determination.”
On Monday, Mr. Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, told reporters beside a mural of her son at the Bay Area Rapid Transit station where he was killed that Ms. O’Malley should charge a second officer, Anthony Pirone, with murder. Mr. Pirone, who is white, was seen on videos pulling Mr. Grant from the train, pinning him to the ground with a knee to his neck and using a racial slur.
“Absolutely we are hopeful that Nancy O’Malley and her team will do the right thing, and the right thing is to convict Pirone for his actions in causing my son to lose his life and be killed,” Ms. Johnson said, according to The Mercury News.
Mr. Mehserle has contended that the killing was an accident because he mistook his pistol for his stun gun, which he said he meant to use. He was found not guilty on charges of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.
In 2019, the transit agency released a long-sealed report on the episode that laid much of the responsibility on Mr. Pirone. The report said he punched Mr. Grant without justification, lied to investigators and “started a cascade of events that ultimately led to the shooting.”
Mr. Pirone, who was fired but not charged in 2009, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Though predating the Black Lives Matter movement that has reshaped the American discussion on race and policing, Mr. Grant’s death in many ways mirrored those of other Black men and women whose deaths figured prominently in this summer’s nationwide protests. For some, the recent demonstrations were a catalyst to renew attention to Mr. Grant’s case.
In 2009, the killing set off often-violent protests in Oakland, with the police responding to arson and looting with tear gas and batons.
The killing was the basis of the critically praised 2013 movie “Fruitvale Station,” in which Michael B. Jordan depicted Mr. Grant in a dramatic retelling of his last 24 hours.
Adante Pointer, a lawyer for Mr. Grant’s family, told The Guardian that he was happy the investigation would be reopened, but that it may be too late.
“Is this political theater or is this serious criminal prosecution that is being considered?” he said. “Any good lawyer would know that many of the charges that could have easily been brought have ostensibly now been swept away by the sands of time. She once again sat on her hands until the community demanded action.”
Protesters of Breonna Taylor’s death are drawing on the city’s robust, if overlooked, history of civil rights struggle that has spanned generations.
By John Eligon and Will Wright, Oct. 6, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/06/us/louisville-protests-civil-rights.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage
The police killing of Breonna Taylor has thrust Louisville, Ky., back into a longtime battle for racial justice. Xavier Burrell for The New York Times
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — They gathered near the banks of the Ohio River this past weekend, about 100 deep, and began marching toward downtown, belting out chants that have become part of the city’s soundtrack.
“Bre-on-na Tay-lor!” “I love being Black!”
When they reached Jefferson Square Park, where protesters have held vigil since late May, the demonstrators lit candles, laid flowers and offered words that were by turns meant to soothe and to rally.
“Louisville has always responded to get justice,” said Raoul Cunningham, 77, the president of the city’s branch of the N.A.A.C.P., who participated in sit-ins in 1961 that helped lead to the integration of commercial businesses. “I think today’s demonstrations are a continuation or even an advancement of that quest,” he said.
As activists work to chart a path forward after prosecutors announced that the two Louisville police officers who fatally shot Breonna Taylor would not be charged, some are drawing on the city’s past to help guide them. Louisville has a robust, if overlooked, history of civil rights struggle that has spanned generations. Many see what is happening today as a continuation of that legacy.
During the civil rights movement, Louisville was a regular stop for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose brother served as a pastor in the city. There were sit-ins, pickets and marches that led to landmark victories: It was the first major city in the South to pass local civil rights and fair housing ordinances, and it was the rare Southern city to peacefully integrate its schools after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling.
The 1970s brought a violent clash over the use of busing to integrate schools. In the ’80s there was so much labor unrest that Louisville became known as Strike City.
In the nearly two weeks since the prosecution’s announcement, the street rallies have shrunk and the national news media has largely left. But marches are still happening nearly every night, as they have been for more than four months. An array of new activist organizations grew out of the response, created in part by many young people protesting for the first time. Together with legacy civil rights groups, they are pressing Ms. Taylor’s case on several fronts — advocating for legal consequences for the officers, public awareness, and state and local legislative changes.
The city is working to create a civilian oversight board that is stronger than the one currently overseeing the Police Department.
A local ordinance, known as “Breonna’s Law,” was passed banning no-knock warrants and expanding the requirements for the use of police body cameras. Attica Scott, a state representative, is sponsoring similar legislation at the state level that would also allow lawsuits against officials who violate a person’s civil rights, and would require drug and alcohol testing for officers after fatal encounters.
Ms. Scott, the lone Black woman in the State Legislature, said her parents, born in Louisville in the 1950s, had activism on their minds when she was born: She is named for the prison in upstate New York where inmates protested against inhumane conditions, she said.
Ms. Scott described growing up in a household where she saw her mother work to make sure that families could get affordable housing and where her parents supported the Black Panthers.
“Activism and social justice is at our core,” she said of Louisville residents. “That is who we are.”
Ms. Scott became a labor organizer in the city, and when she went to meetings and demonstrations, she would sometimes bring her daughter, Ashanti, in tow. Ashanti was about 8 when she accompanied her mother to a protest for increased wages and better conditions for retail workers. That stuck with her.
“It really showed me the importance of showing up, putting your body out there on the line, standing with your community,” Ashanti Scott, now 19, said. “And how vital that is to have your voice, whether it’s leading chants or following chants — that is some of the most important work.”
And so in late May, when she saw images of raucous downtown protests on social media, when she read the details of the killing of Ms. Taylor, who, like her, was young, Black and from Louisville, Ms. Scott knew she had no choice. She had to take to the streets.
In the months since, Ms. Scott has become one of the many first-time activists helping to sustain the movement. She goes to the downtown square, tweets about the case and protests about four times a week, she said.
She said she took inspiration, and saw something of a road map, from the past battles that Black people in Louisville fought — like the push to integrate Fontaine Ferry Park, an amusement park, on the West End, or the boycotts that helped to desegregate businesses.
Those efforts taught her to use protests to highlight injustice, she said, “so we can end it and get policy changes to keep Black people in Louisville secure in their homes and their communities.”
In the mid-20th century, Louisville was the stop for trains coming from the North where Black passengers had to move to the “colored cars” before continuing their southward journey, said Tracy E. K’Meyer, a historian at the University of Louisville and the author of “Civil Rights in the Gateway to the South.” But it also was the place where organized labor as well as liberal churches helped to produce a civil rights movement that was relatively interracial for its time.
“One of the things the ’60s era sort of bequeathed to us is a sort of playbook for activism,” Dr. K’Meyer said. “Some of my younger students, especially some of my more radical younger students, will say, ‘We’re not like them. We’re different from what they did back in the ’60s,’ while doing pretty much exactly what they did back in the ’60s.”
Some older movement leaders say that the younger generation has shown less patience at times, and that the current activist efforts can seem chaotic.
Shameka Parrish-Wright, a co-chair of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, has been helping to guide some of the younger activists.
“They’re still reacting,” Ms. Parrish-Wright, 43, said. “They’re still processing and they’re doing it out loud.”
Ms. Parrish-Wright helped to set up the encampment in the downtown square — which activists now call Injustice Square Park — in late May when protesters began flooding the streets of Louisville. Ms. Taylor was killed in March at age 26, but her case only started receiving national attention in May after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The 40-year-old Alliance runs its operations out of the two-story Craftsman home where one of its founders, Anne Braden, who was white and died in 2006, lived in Louisville’s predominantly Black West End. Inside the home there is a clutter of cases of water and other supplies donated to support the protesters. Large yellow sheets of paper propped on an easel have lists of protest “demands” and “wins,” such as the ban on no-knock warrants.
Protesters have said they want more to come out of this moment, but as they continue to push, activists are encountering resistant public officials and internal disagreements that threaten to thwart their efforts.
On a Saturday evening last month, after one of the largest marches of the week, hundreds of demonstrators milled about Jefferson Square Park, looking for direction. What they got instead was a power struggle.
Some organizers urged the marchers to sit in the square past the city’s 9 p.m. curfew to force the Police Department’s hand in deciding whether to arrest peaceful demonstrators. Others wanted them to take sanctuary at a nearby church and feared that the police would destroy a memorial to Ms. Taylor in the square.
The group ultimately splintered. The remaining protesters ended up at the church, where arguments ensued over what to do next.
The following evening, with dozens gathered back at the church, Chris Wells, 31, an activist working to create his own organization, sought to patch any lingering wounds.
“I love y’all,” he told a crowd gathered around him. “We’re going to keep marching, keep stepping, but we’re going to do it together as one.”
Decades of budget-cutting and market reforms laid the ground for a wave of death in Swedish nursing homes.
By Peter S. Goodman and Erik Augustin Palm, Oct. 8, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/08/business/coronavirus-sweden-social-welfare.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage
In the popular imagination, Sweden does not seem like the sort of country prone to accepting the mass death of grandparents to conserve resources in a pandemic.
Swedes pay some of the highest taxes on earth in exchange for extensive government services, including state-furnished health care and education, plus generous cash assistance for those who lose jobs. When a child is born, the parents receive 480 days of parental leave to use between them.
Yet among the nearly 6,000 people whose deaths have been linked to the coronavirus in Sweden, 2,694, or more than 45 percent, had been among the country’s most vulnerable citizens — those living in nursing homes.
That tragedy is in part the story of how Sweden has, over decades, gradually yet relentlessly downgraded its famously generous social safety net.
Since a financial crisis in the early 1990s, Sweden has slashed taxes and diminished government services. It has handed responsibility for the care of older people — mostly living at home — to strapped municipal governments, while opening up nursing homes to for-profit businesses. They have delivered cost savings by relying on part-time and temporary workers, who typically lack formal training in medicine and elder care.
This is how the nursing staff at the Sabbatsbergsbyn nursing home in the center of Stockholm found itself grappling with an impossible situation.
It was the middle of March, and several of the 106 residents, most of them suffering dementia, were already displaying symptoms of Covid-19. The staff had to be dedicated to individual wards while rigorously avoiding entering others to prevent transmission. But when the team presented this plan to the supervisors, they dismissed it, citing meager staffing, said one nurse, who spoke on the condition on anonymity, citing concerns about potential legal action.
The facility was owned and operated by Sweden’s largest for-profit operator of nursing homes, Attendo, whose stock trades on the Nasdaq Stockholm exchange. Last year, the company tallied revenue in excess of $1.3 billion.
On weekends and during night shifts, the nurse was frequently the only one on duty. The rest of the staff lacked proper protective gear, said the nurse and a care aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being fired. Management had given them basic cardboard masks — “the kind house painters wear,” the nurse said — while instructing them to use the same ones for days in a row. Some used plastic file folders and string to make their own visors.
By the time the nurse quit in May, at least 20 residents were dead, she said.
“The way we had to work went against everything we learned in school regarding disease control,” the nurse said. “I felt ashamed, because I knew that we were spreaders.”
The lowest-wage workers — who are paid hourly and lack the protection of contracts — continued showing up for shifts, even after falling ill, because government-furnished sick pay did not cover all of their lost wages, the care aide said.
“This is an undervalued part of the labor market,” said Marta Szebehely, an expert in elder care at Stockholm University. “Some care workers are badly paid, badly trained and have really bad employment conditions. And they were supposed to stop a transmission that nobody knew anything about, and without much support.”
Vulnerability in another area was central to the devastation: Over the last two decades, Sweden has substantially reduced its hospital capacity. During the worst of the initial outbreak, elderly people in nursing homes were denied access to hospitals for fear of overwhelming them.
When nursing home residents displayed Covid symptoms, guidelines in force in Stockholm in the initial phase of the pandemic encouraged physicians to prescribe palliative care — forgoing efforts to save lives in favor of keeping people comfortable in their final days — without examining patients or conducting blood or urine tests, said Dr. Yngve Gustafson, a professor of geriatrics at Umea University. He said that practice amounted to active euthanasia, which is illegal in Sweden.
“As a physician,” Dr. Gustafson said, “I feel ashamed that there are physicians who haven’t done an individual assessment before they decide whether or not the patient should die.”
In the United States, some 40 percent of total coronavirus deaths have been linked to nursing homes, according to a New York Times database. In Britain, Covid has been directly blamed in more than 15,000 nursing home deaths, according to government data.
But these are countries characterized by extreme levels of economic inequality. An estimated 45,000 Americans die every year for lack of health care, according to one report. Britons endured a decade of punishing austerity that battered the national health system.
Sweden is supposed to be immune to such dangers. Yet this country of only 10 million people has been ravaged by the coronavirus, with per capita death rates nearly as high as the United States, Britain and Spain, according to World Health Organization data.
One element appears to have substantially increased the risks: Sweden’s decision to avoid the lockdowns imposed in much of the rest of Europe as a means of limiting the virus. Though the government recommended social distancing, and many people worked from home, it kept schools open along with shops, restaurants and nightclubs. It did not require that people wear masks.
“There’s been more society transmission, and it’s been more difficult to hinder it from entering the care homes,” said Joacim Rocklov, an epidemiologist at Umea University. “The most precious time that we lost, our mistake was in the beginning.”
Those who operate private nursing homes in Sweden assert that residents have been the victims of the government’s failure to limit the spread of the virus.
“It’s the total transmission in society, that’s the key,” said Martin Tivéus, chief executive of Attendo, the company that owns the Sabbatsbergsbyn home in Stockholm.
Investigations by Swedish media have concluded that private nursing homes suffered lower death rates than their public counterparts. But experts say private and public homes are governed by the same decisive force: Municipalities handle elderly care, and taxpayers have been inclined to pay less.
For decades aggressive public spending was the rule in Sweden, rendering joblessness a rarity. By the beginning of the 1990s, a sense had taken hold that the state had overdone it. It was subsidizing industries that were not internationally competitive. Wages were rising faster than productivity, yielding inflation.
In 1992, Sweden’s central bank lifted interest rates as high as 75 percent to choke off inflation while preventing a plunge in the national currency, the krona. The next year, amid a tightening of credit, Sweden’s unemployment rate surged above 8 percent. The economy contracted, depleting municipal tax revenues.
This played out just as the policy sphere became infused with the thinking of economists like Milton Friedman, whose neoliberal principles placed faith in shrinking the state and lowering taxes as a source of dynamism.
From the middle of the 1990s through 2013, Sweden dropped its top income tax rate to 57 percent from 84 percent while eliminating levies on property, wealth and inheritance. The net effect was a reduction in government revenue equivalent to 7 percent of national economic output.
Under a 1992 law, Swedish elder care shifted from a reliance on nursing homes to an emphasis on home care. Part of the alteration was philosophical. Policymakers embraced the idea that older people would better enjoy their last years in their own homes, rather than in institutional settings.
But the shift was also driven by budget imperatives.
As a share of its economy, Sweden spends 3.2 percent a year on long-term care for the elderly, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, compared with 0.5 percent in the United States and 1.4 percent in Britain. Only the Netherlands and Norway spend more.
But that expenditure is now spread across a population with greater needs. With home care the rule, nursing homes are reserved for older people suffering from complex ailments.
Attendo said it had enough protective gear to satisfy Swedish guidelines, and more than public nursing homes had, but not enough to manage the pandemic. When the company realized it needed more, it confronted a global shortage.
“It took five or six weeks to get the volumes outside of China,” said Mr. Tivéus, the Attendo chief executive.
The shortages at Swedish nursing homes underscore the extent to which budget math has taken precedence over social welfare, say those who have watched the refashioning.
“What this pandemic has done is demonstrate a number of system errors that have gone under the radar for years,” said Olle Lundberg, secretary general of Forte, a health research council that is part of the Swedish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. “We totally rely on the global production chain and just-in-time delivery. The syringes we need today should be delivered in the morning. There is no safety margin. It may be very economically efficient in one way, but it’s very vulnerable.”
Mia Grane was unaware of the systemic issues when she moved her parents into the Sabbatsbergsbyn home in the summer of 2018.
In their younger days, her mother had been an Olympic swimmer. Now, she was descending into Alzheimer’s. Her father used a wheelchair.
The home sat in the center of Stockholm, a 15-minute bike ride from her apartment, with lovely gardens that were used for midsummer parties.
“It was a perfect place,” said Ms. Grane, 51. “They felt at home.”
But her confidence evaporated as the pandemic spread. When she asked the nursing home staff how it planned to manage the danger, it reassured her that everything was fine.
“I thought, ‘If this virus gets into this place,’” she said, “‘a lot of people are going to die.’”
A week later, she read in a local newspaper that a prominent Swedish musician had died. He had lived in the same ward as her parents. She called the home and was told that her father was suffering cold symptoms. A test showed that he had contracted Covid.
Ms. Grane urged the staff to transfer her father to the hospital. It told her that no one was making that journey, she said.
Nursing homes lack advanced medical equipment like ventilators, and hospitals were effectively off limits to nursing home residents.
“We knew that Sweden had fewer intensive care beds per inhabitants than Italy,” said Dr. Michael Broomé, a physician at an intensive care unit in Stockholm. “We had to think twice about whether to put elderly people with other conditions on ventilators.”
This forced the nursing home to administer comfort care, easing the pain with opioids as death approached.
Ms. Grane’s father died on April 2. “He was all alone,” she said.
She begged the staff to save her mother — “the most important person in my life.” But she wasn’t eating. A week later, her mother died, too.
Ms. Grane struggles to make sense of it — the staff not having proper masks, the hospital deemed off limits, the lack of concern about the nature of the threat.
“For me, it’s clear that they wanted to save costs,” she said. “In the end, it’s the money that talks.”
Mistrust of vaccines runs deep in African-American communities. Against formidable odds, Father Paul Abernathy and his teams are trying to convince residents of Pittsburgh’s historic Black neighborhoods to volunteer for trials testing a Covid-19 shot.
By Jan Hoffman, Photographs by Chang W. Lee, Oct. 7, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/07/health/coronavirus-vaccine-trials-african-americans.html?surface=home-discovery-vi-prg&fellback=false&req_id=290158560&algo=identity&imp_id=934700671&action=click&module=Science%20%20Technology&pgtype=Homepage
Rev. Paul Abernathy and LaRay Moton, left, greeted Ms. Moton’s relatives and friends, gathered on a stoop at the Bedford Dwellings. Credit...Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
PITTSBURGH — The recruiters strode to the front of the room, wearing neon-yellow vests and resolute expressions. But to the handful of tenants overwhelmed by unemployment and gang violence in Northview Heights, the pitch verged on the ludicrous.
Would you like to volunteer for a clinical trial to test a coronavirus vaccine?
On this swampy-hot afternoon, the temperature of the room was wintry. “I won’t be used as a guinea pig for white people,” one tenant in the predominantly Black public housing complex declared. Another said she knew of five people who had died from the flu shot. Make Trump look good? a man scoffed — forget it. It’s safer to keep washing your hands, stay away from people and drink orange juice, a woman insisted, until the Devil’s coronavirus work passed over.
Then an older woman turned the question back on Carla Arnold, a recruiter from a local outreach group, who is well-known to people in the Heights:
“Miss Carla, would you feel comfortable allowing them to inject you?”
Ms. Arnold, 62, adjusted her seat to face them down, her eyes no-nonsense above a medical mask.
“They already did,” she replied.
The room stilled.
Recruiting Black volunteers for vaccine trials during a period of severe mistrust of the federal government and heightened awareness of racial injustice is a formidable task. So far, only about 3 percent of the people who have signed up nationally are Black.
Yet never has their inclusion in a medical study been more urgent. The economic and health impacts of the coronavirus are falling disproportionately hard on communities of color. It is essential, public health experts say, that research reflect diverse participation not only as a matter of social justice and sound practice but, when the vaccine becomes available, to help persuade Black, Latino and Native American people to actually get it. (The participation of Asian people is close to their share of the population.)
People of color face greater exposure to the virus, in part because many work in front line and essential jobs, and have high rates of diabetes, obesity and hypertension, all of which are risk factors for severe Covid-19. But even when those factors are accounted for, people of color still appear to have a higher risk of infection, for reasons researchers cannot yet pinpoint, said Dr. Nelson L. Michael, an infectious-disease expert at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
“Historically, we test everything in white men,” said Dr. Michael, a member of the vaccine development team at Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership set up by the White House. “But the disease is coming after people of color, and we need to encourage them to volunteer because they have the highest burden of disease.”
Now, academic researchers at trial sites like Pittsburgh’s are turning to neighborhood leaders to attract more diverse pools of participants. The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh sponsored an information webinar and the New Pittsburgh Courier, which has a large, African-American readership, published articles about the trial.
And in the Hill District, which contains the city’s oldest Black neighborhoods, volunteers from the Neighborhood Resilience Project, a faith-based initiative that offers a food bank, clothing and a health clinic, are trying to reach people where the pandemic is raging in crowded, multigenerational homes.
The recruiters knock on doors and buttonhole neighbors. Sitting on worn sofas in small, close apartments, they address fears with respect and facts.
Ms. Arnold carefully explained to the tenants her decision to participate in the trial for the vaccine being developed by Moderna, a company that has received pledges of $1.5 billion from the Trump administration for its effort.
“I am a proud African-American woman,” she said. “As African-Americans, we always seem to get less out of things that go on. I want us at the forefront of this. I want to make sure that Black people are represented. I’m going by faith that these people won’t do to African-Americans what they did to us in Tuskegee. I’m holding them accountable.”
The hard resistance in the room wobbled. Pandemic experiences tumbled forth.
A granddaughter was sick with it. A woman knew a 24-year-old who had caught it, and it was beating him up. Covid had put a neighbor down the hall in a coma.
In frustration, a woman shouted: “I asked paramedics why people here are getting sick, and they said, ‘There’s no social distancing.’ But you can’t social-distance in a place like this, everyone on top of each other.”
Ms. Arnold seized the moment. Go door to door with me, she pressed. Talk to folks about Covid-19 safety, about signing up for the vaccine registry.
The registry, a bank of people willing to be contacted about the clinical trials, does not commit you to getting the experimental vaccine, she added, only to being called by researchers.
“You’re not going to be the guinea pig,” the supervisor of the volunteers, Tyra L. Townsend, chimed in. “White people are.”
That is because, she said, most of the vaccine trial registrants so far are white.
The room hesitated, perched on the precipice of decision-making. No firm commitments. But interest, definitely.
The recruiters said they would return to the Heights at 6 p.m. to begin knocking on doors.
Science vs. scientists
Black and Latino people, along with Native Americans, are being hit far harder by the coronavirus than white people are. A recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that from March through mid-July, people of color were five times more likely to be hospitalized for Covid-19 than their white counterparts and that through Aug. 4, the rate of death among Black people, relative to their share of the population, was at least twice as high. In Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, the Black population’s rates of cases and hospitalizations have been almost as stark.
While Black people stand to benefit greatly from a coronavirus vaccine, surveys show that they are the group least likely to trust one. In a poll last month by the Pew Research Group, only 32 percent of Black respondents said they were likely to take it, compared with 52 percent of white respondents. Historically, Black people have been more hesitant than other groups to get vaccines, especially the flu shot, and are also far less likely to volunteer for medical research; one study showed their participation hovering at about 5 percent. They are 13 percent of the population.
The mistrust is built on present disparities as well as a long history of abuse. Studies show that Black people in the United States have less access to good medical care than do white people and their concerns are more likely to be dismissed. Notorious medical experiments on Black people continue to exacerbate suspicion. They include surgeries by Dr. J. Marion Sims, a 19th-century gynecologist, on enslaved Black women, the 40-year-long Tuskegee study, in which doctors deliberately allowed syphilis to progress in Black Alabama sharecroppers, and researchers’ taking of cells without permission from Henrietta Lacks, an African-American cancer patient, in 1951.
“It’s not the science we distrust; it’s the scientists,” said Jamil Bey, head of the UrbanKind Institute, a Pittsburgh nonprofit organization whose programs include virtual town halls on racism, the pandemic and vaccine trials.
Some public health experts said that the percentages of volunteers from various groups should replicate the disproportionate impact of the virus but that they hope at least to mirror the population so that about a third of participants are Black, Latino and Native American.
By mid-September, 407,000 people in the United States had enrolled in the vaccine trials through the website for the national Covid-19 Prevention Network, but only 11 percent identified as people of color.
Trials for vaccines developed by the drug companies Moderna and AstraZeneca are being conducted at local sites across the country, including the University of Pittsburgh. In June, Dr. Elizabeth Miller, a co-director of the community engagement program for the university’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, reached out to local groups to help with recruitment.
At early meetings, Rev. Paul Abernathy, 41, an Orthodox Christian priest and Iraq War veteran who is Black, spoke up: The national strategy of radio commercials, online ads and church sermons was not enough to persuade people to enroll, he said. They needed to be pulled into conversation, one on one. And he had just the team to do so.
In 2011, Father Paul, as he is known locally, founded an organization that he recently renamed the Neighborhood Resilience Project. Run mostly by volunteers, it provides food, counseling, medical care and other services to the city’s poorest neighborhoods. In April, in response to the pandemic tearing through those communities, his group trained volunteers to check on their neighbors. These “community health deputies” offered masks to young people hanging out on corners and picked up food and medicine for older people.
Why not have the deputies recruit for the vaccine trials? suggested Father Paul, a Pittsburgh native whose ancestry is African-American, Syrian and Italian-Polish. “People trust folks who look like them, who know them,” he explained.
For weeks, his offer languished, and the registry remained stubbornly white.
“Do they think we are unable to comprehend the vaccine information?” Father Paul asked in exasperation.
In late August, as the deadline for enrollments approached, the researchers relented: Go for it.
On a recent morning, Father Paul’s team climbed aboard a modest R.V. to fan out to some of Pittsburgh’s struggling neighborhoods. “There is a great deal that is against us,” Father Paul said. “And we have to be honest about that. Our community needs more than what we have. But with a good spirit and a willing heart, miracles can happen.”
They rolled through the streets, carrying backpacks full of bottles of water, bags of Cheez-Its and cards with contact numbers. Father Paul rode shotgun, wearing his clerical collar and trademark fedora. As the R.V. paused at traffic lights, people waved at him. “How y’all doing?” he shouted back.
At one stop, LaRay Moton, 61, a community health deputy, introduced Father Paul to her neighbors in the Bedford Dwellings, a public housing complex: Lori Strothers, 56, and her daughter Jayla, 26.
Then they learned that the vaccine was the reason for the priest’s visit.
“It’s scary,” said the younger Ms. Strothers. “You’re being filled with unknown things. There’s not enough data.”
“So how much data would you need to feel comfortable?” Father Paul asked.
“I’m a visual person,” she explained. “I need to see it on paper.”
He turned to his deputies. “Let’s work to get spreadsheets to her,” he said.
At a store in the housing complex’s basement, stocked with free surplus and secondhand goods, the air was musty and the aisles tight and twisting, crammed with clothes, dishes, bicycles, books.
Almost unseen amid the clutter was the store’s founder and proprietor, Effie Williams, 80, a tiny figure enthroned in her office chair.
Ms. Moton, the volunteer, knew better than to try to distract people who were shopping. Instead, she pitched to Ms. Williams, whom she wanted to help spread the word.
Ms. Moton is something of a community matriarch in the Bedford Dwellings. Earlier that day, she had been visiting older tenants, knocking loudly at every door and calling out: “Put your face mask on, baby! You got company!”
Then she had plopped herself down beside the tenants, asking about their chemotherapy and their blood pressure, deftly working up to flu shots and vaccine registries.
Now in the store, Ms. Moton launched into her spiel. “I’m here to talk about wellness checks and Covid-19, ” she said to Ms. Williams. “What are your thoughts about the vaccine?”
Ms. Williams cocked a dubious eyebrow.
Unruffled, Ms. Moton plowed ahead. She turned to two women who were minding young children and helping Ms. Williams with the store.
“What about you?” Ms. Moton asked. “Would you be interested in participating in the trial here in Pittsburgh?”
“I’m scared of side effects,” Shaquala Miller, 29, said.
Father Paul stepped forward, explaining that so far, the only reported reaction was a temporary swelling at the injection spot. This trial was already in Phase 3. Phase 1, he explained, was “high risk and low benefit.” By the time Phase 3 rolled around, “you’ve got low risk and high benefit.”
A handful of shoppers drew close. Father Paul cranked it up a notch.
“We want to make sure that the vaccine will get into our community and work for us,” he said. “I guarantee you it will be in other communities!”
“Don’t leave us out!”
“When is it starting?”
Ms. Moton practically shouted with glee: “Now!”
Ms. Miller said tentatively: “Maybe I’ll sign up. Just as long as you know it’s safe. I have three kids. ”
Ms. Williams suggested that Ms. Moton leave cards with the registry information in the store. And she decided to give the vaccine a try. “I guess it doesn’t bother me,” she announced. “I’m old.”
“I can help you register, Miss Effie,” Ms. Moton offered.
And then in a low voice, she asked, “Miss Effie, have you eaten today?”
Ms. Williams looked down at her lap.
Handing her a bag of Cheez-Its, Ms. Moton said, as she made a note: “Don’t you worry. I’ll get that taken care of right away.”
One more trauma
To Father Paul, Covid-19 is one more deadly trauma in a litany that has shaken Black neighborhoods. People come to his organization seeking food, health care and clothes and wind up talking about stabbings, overdoses, robberies, fires, domestic violence.
“I was seeing more PTSD in my community than I saw in Iraq,” he said, referring to his yearlong tour of duty as a staff sergeant in 2003, during which he saw combat.
Upon his return, he became an outspoken opponent of the Iraq War and completed masters degrees in divinity and in public and international affairs. About six years ago, Father Paul began working with researchers from Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh to develop a manual for community development, informed by the sustained, incapacitating trauma so prevalent in the neighborhoods his group serves. Now, often summoned by the Pittsburgh police, Father Paul’s volunteers arrive after a shooting or a stabbing to administer emotional first aid.
The weight of so many traumas on a community, he said, is in part what makes it so hard to ask for volunteers for the trials. Daily survival can feel so all-consuming that participating in an institutional research experiment seems utterly beside the point.
“We cannot talk about a vaccine without acknowledging these other epidemics,” Father Paul said. “Our kids aren’t being educated, and food lines are longer. Hope is gone, too. So if you say to people, ‘That makes volunteering for the vaccine trials more meaningful,’ they will say: ‘Are you kidding me? My house got shot at last night. And you really want to talk about Covid?’”
A change of plans
At 6 p.m., as promised, his teams returned to Northview Heights. But there would be no door-to-door vaccine pitches this evening.
A few nights earlier, during a gunfight, a stray bullet had pierced a wall of a nearby public housing complex, killing a 1-year-old baby as he slept in his crib. His two grieving grandmothers lived in Northview Heights.
Father Paul and his trauma response teams, wearing orange vests, had already been to the scene of the shooting the previous night. Orange tape marked the bullet holes. People peered at the teams through broken shade slats, and stared from stoops, turning away as they approached.
A woman who was sobbing and cursing beckoned. Her teenage stepson had also been killed over the weekend, and she wanted to let loose.
“I watched the officers try their hardest to save that baby!” said the woman, who identified herself only as Tyffani, 44.
Father Paul held her hand. She bowed her head as he prayed. “There is no prayer more powerful than the prayer of a broken heart,” he said. “Heal her in her brokenness and raise her up in peace.”
A bulwark had been breached. Neighbors who had watched warily began to accept comfort from the trauma teams, as well as masks and information cards.
Now, at Northview Heights, a balloon release to honor the grandmothers’ grief had been hastily arranged for the evening.
More than 100 people, many carrying floating, bobbing bouquets of white and colored foil balloons, assembled on the sloping lawn next to the apartments. The weeping grandmothers, wearing T-shirts printed with the baby’s smiling face, were swarmed by mourners. On the periphery, children played tag, and teenagers set off firecrackers.
Almost no one wore a mask.
“This is our culture of death — memorial sites, murals and balloon releases,” said Father Paul. “This is what we do. We don’t even have to think about it.”
The teams’ backpacks included cards with information about vaccine trials, as well as cookies and small stuffed animals.
“We ask parents if we can give their kids a teddy bear,” explained Roxane Plater, a volunteer. “The kid smiles, the parents ask what we do — and that’s our opening.”
Ms. Plater scoped out the crowd. “Do you need a mask?” she asked. People looked startled, as if in a fog, and gratefully accepted one, or produced their own.
A domino effect unfurled: as more people put on masks, others pulled on their own. The teams offered cards with contacts.
The balloons were distributed, followed by keening, anguished speeches. A GoFundMe page for funeral expenses was announced. Then, all at once, flocks of balloons floated away, some tangling in trees and telephone wire, others sailing higher.
And, abruptly, the gathering was over.
As people walked away, Charniece Cabbagestalk approached a weeping grandmother of the dead baby and offered a black cloth mask imprinted with a photo of the woman’s grandson. Since the pandemic began, Ms. Cabbagestalk has made more than 100 such masks as gifts for people whose loved ones died violently.
Father Paul shook his head sadly. “A mask for Covid and violence,” he said. “Two pandemics hitting the Black community in one image.”
By the following week, there were signs that the outreach efforts were helping. The portion of people of color in the Pittsburgh area in the vaccine registry had risen to 8 percent, from 3 percent. Because trial leaders can choose whom they finally enroll, they have been increasing the percentage of nonwhite subjects. Moderna reported that nationwide, as of Sept. 28, 26 percent of those enrolled were Black.
Dr. Miller, the University of Pittsburgh professor who coordinates outreach for the local vaccine trials, was elated. “The community health deputies have been instrumental in communicating about the vaccine registry in authentic ways,” she said.
During the week, the recruiters had confronted an array of questions.
Won’t melanin protect me from Covid?
If you had Covid, can you go in the trial?
How do you know that white folks won’t get one vaccine and Black folks another?
How do you know what they’re putting in the Black vaccine?
At a weekly meeting over Zoom, the health deputies and the researchers reviewed a new script to help answer those questions.
Then Ms. Townsend, who trains volunteers, asked Ms. Arnold, the Northview Heights community health deputy, to speak about why she had decided to lead by example and get an injection.
Years ago, Ms. Arnold said, she was visiting her father, a prostate cancer patient, in the hospital. She saw drip bags attached to him, including one filled with yellow liquid. What’s that? she asked. Platelets, she was told.
It was then that she learned that there weren’t enough African-Americans in the blood donor base to help all the Black patients with cancer or sickle cell disease. That was when she began to donate blood.
“I was just trying to save him and other African-Americans,” she said, “because we didn’t have a fair shot at getting better sooner.”
And now, she said, how could she ask people in the community to volunteer for the coronavirus vaccine trials if she hadn’t done so herself?
By Peter Eavis, Oct. 8, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/08/business/executive-stock-awards-coronavirus.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Business
Even as millions of people have lost their jobs during the pandemic, the soaring stock market since the spring has delivered outsize gains to the wealthiest Americans. And few among the superrich have done as well as corporate executives who received stock awards this year.
Executives With the Biggest Gains:
William Lynch—Peloton—$64.4 million
Edward W. Stack—Dick’s Sporting Goods—$60.4 million
Frederick W. Smith—FedEx—$36.9 million
Stephane Bancel—Moderna—$29.9 million
Marc Benioff—Salesforce—$27.6 million
Edward W. Stack, the chief executive of Dick’s Sporting Goods, and William Lynch, president of Peloton, for example, are each sitting on paper gains of over $60 million on stock-based awards they mostly received in the first three months of the year, based on Wednesday’s closing stock prices, according to an analysis by Institutional Shareholder Services, which advises investors on how to vote on corporate matters.
And Stéphane Bancel, the chief executive of Moderna, a drug maker developing a coronavirus vaccine, received options in January that have appreciated by nearly $30 million.
The pay gains are a result of the sharp rise in the stock prices of these companies, which investors are betting are well positioned to grow during the pandemic. Another reason these stock awards have appreciated so much is that some of the grants were made when the stock market was close to its lowest point for the year. Of course, many executives are also sitting on gains on stock they got in earlier years.
But the surge in wealth also highlights how the compensation of senior executives is designed to give them enormous windfalls, which they have gotten even during one of the sharpest economic downturns in decades.
These gains are also a reminder that income and wealth in the U.S. economy are tilted heavily toward a tiny number of top earners who own significant amounts of stock. Most Americans own little or no stock, according to a recent Federal Reserve report, and many had less in savings in 2019 than they did before the last recession a decade ago.
“The stock market is not an indicator of the health of the economy for working people; it’s an indicator of economic inequality,” said Brandon Rees, deputy director of corporations and capital markets at the A.F.L.-C.I.O. “These C.E.O. payments reflect that reality.”
For decades, corporate boards have tried to tie executive pay to the performance of the company’s stock in an effort to make managers more accountable to shareholders. Yet executives still often end up doing far better than might be justified by a company’s fundamental business performance.
Mr. Stack’s compensation shows how top executives can rack up such large gains so quickly.
In March, when the stock market was close to its low point and the share price for Dick’s Sporting Goods was also at a nadir, he received 355 percent more stock options for his 2020 award than for his 2019 grant and 142 percent more restricted shares, according to the I.S.S. analysis and the company’s securities filings. (Businesses often hand executives stock in two forms: stock options or restricted shares. An option usually provides its owner the right to acquire company stock at a future date at the price it was trading on the day it was issued. A restricted share is stock that executives cannot sell for months or years.)
When asked to explain how the company arrived at Mr. Stack’s 2020 stock grants, it said in a statement: “As in prior years, the compensation committee considered a number of factors, including the company’s 2019 performance.”
Then, everything started to move in Mr. Stack’s favor. Investors, believing that Dick’s could profit in the pandemic economy and encouraged by stimulus from Congress and the Federal Reserve, bid up the price of the company’s stock. But because Mr. Stack had far more shares in the 2020 stock grants than he did in 2019, the overall value of that awards have ballooned. The 2020 awards were worth about $7 million when they were issued and are now valued at a combined $67.4 million. By contrast, Mr. Stack’s 2019 awards are worth $15 million at Wednesday’s stock price.
Of course, the gains could shrink if Dick’s stock declines. Mr. Stack can exercise and sell all his stock options only after four years. In a filing, the company said his restricted stock awards would become available over time but did not specify the period.
Still, the award raises questions. Shareholders may object to an arrangement that could give Mr. Stack compensation far in excess of what they might have expected when the stock grant was made.
“If you don’t adjust your approach when there is a shake-up in the market and your stock price is down significantly, investors are going to raise concerns,” said Brett Miller, head of data solutions for the responsible-investment arm of I.S.S. “What you don’t do is give executives more opportunities to increase their value.”
Employees may also feel left out. As Mr. Stack’s stock grant was swelling in value, Dick’s furloughed many of its employees for several weeks. In the company’s last fiscal year, his compensation was 1,487 times the pay of the company’s median employee, a measurement that includes many part-time workers. Mr. Stack has a large stake in Dick’s and controls the company through powerful voting shares.
The I.S.S. analysis covers top executives whose pay details are included in companies’ proxies, documents that publicly traded businesses file with the Securities and Exchange Commission annually. Proxies provide investors with important financial information and instructions on how to vote on corporate proposals and board appointments.
Not all executives have gains on their 2020 grants, because many companies have struggled in the pandemic. In its survey, which covers 2020 grants made by companies in the Russell 3000 stock index, I.S.S. found that 1,675 “named executive officers,” or the executives who appear in proxies, had gains while 1,388 had losses, as of Wednesday’s closing stock prices. The average appreciation was nearly $1.5 million and the average loss $827,000.
The chief executives of technology companies, many of which have thrived during the pandemic, have done particularly well. Their average gain on 2020 grants was $3.2 million, while the average loss was $543,000.
The largest combined gain in the survey was Mr. Lynch’s $64 million on his 2020 options grants from Peloton. Its stock is up 500 percent from its 2020 low.
If a company’s stock soars like Peloton’s, employee stock awards will most likely produce immediate paper fortunes. But Mr. Miller said companies could structure stock awards to reduce that likelihood if they wanted to. For example, companies can space out grants so they are not all granted when the stock is at a low or a high point.
Peloton declined to comment.
Ray Jordan, a spokesman for Moderna, said Mr. Bancel’s options vested over several years, meaning that “paper gains in a few months do not necessarily translate to long-term gains if the stock performance is not maintained.”
Some executives at companies that have been hit hard by the pandemic have still done well. In March, William J. Hornbuckle, chief executive of MGM Resorts International, gave up the remainder of his 2020 salary in exchange for restricted stock units worth $700,000, the amount of his forgone salary. After MGM stock recovered somewhat from the lows it plumbed in March, that grant is worth $1.3 million on paper — and all his 2020 awards have appreciated by a combined $4 million.
“At a time of great uncertainty when all of our properties were closed with no clear plan for reopening, Mr. Hornbuckle and several of our executives volunteered to help the company conserve cash by exchanging all or a portion of their cash compensation for the remainder of 2020 for restricted stock units that vest at the end of the year,” Debra DeShong, an MGM representative, said in a statement. “By doing so, they took on great risk, risk that still exists in that we are not operating under normal circumstances and we are still in a period of recovery.”
Rochester officers followed their training in restraining Mr. Prude, who was incoherent, but did little to calm him down or defuse his anger.
By Edgar Sandoval, Oct. 9, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/09/nyregion/daniel-prude-rochester-police-mental-health.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=New%20York
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — One officer wrote in his arrest report that he knew that Daniel Prude had been “previously suicidal” before his disastrous encounter with police and had spent hours a day earlier in a psychiatric ward.
Police body-camera footage shows that after officers restrained Mr. Prude, they stood around him, smiling and laughing as he made delusional comments. He could be seen shouting incoherently as he lay naked, handcuffed and hooded, in the street on a frigid night.
A lieutenant later acknowledged in internal police documents that Mr. Prude had “acted in a fashion consistent with an individual in some form of mental distress.”
The death of Mr. Prude, who suffocated after three officers placed the hood over his head, has intensified scrutiny of the police treatment of Black people, touching off weeks of protests and official soul-searching in this Rust Belt city of 206,000 on Lake Ontario.
But it has also highlighted another deep-seated problem in many police departments: Armed police officers, intensely drilled in techniques to subdue violent suspects, often seem ill-equipped to deal with people who are mentally ill or in a drug-induced delirium.
Around the country, the Prude case has helped to galvanize the debate over police department training — and whether resources and responsibility for these kinds of cases should be diverted from the police to mental health professionals. Supporters of the movement to defund the police have embraced that shift, but so have others who are opposed to deep cuts in police budgets.
In New York City, there have been several cases in recent years where people in the throes of mental illness died after encounters with responding officers. In general, those with untreated mental illnesses are 16 times more likely to die at the hands of the police than other people, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center, an advocacy nonprofit.
“Every police department in the country should watch the video and try to ask themselves, how could the incident be handled differently,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which seeks to improve policing. “These are traditionally the most difficult calls for the police.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo urged police departments late last month to respond to the Prude case by working more closely with mental health and substance abuse experts.
“People are dying,” Mr. Cuomo said. “That’s a fact. When all you have is a gun and a badge and the ability to arrest, that’s your only solution to that issue.”
“Redesign your public safety plan,” he said, addressing local governments.
Lawyers for the seven officers involved in Mr. Prude’s arrest said on Thursday that the officers knew Mr. Prude had taken phencyclidine, or PCP, and as a result they thought some techniques employed with mentally ill people would not work.
“Many in the media and elsewhere have cast this incident as a mental health event. It was not,” said Matthew Rich, a lawyer for four of the officers. “It was an event that involved the use of a dangerous drug with very serious side effects.”
Still, internal police documents show that from the moment that the officers responded to the 911 call on March 23, they knew that they were dealing with a so-called mental hygiene case involving a person who had not committed a serious crime but instead seemed to be experiencing a psychotic episode.
Mr. Prude had bolted from his brother’s home in nothing but a tank top and long johns after taking PCP — also known as angel dust — which causes hallucinations, his brother, Joe Prude, told the police, according to the internal documents.
But police body-camera footage and written reports indicate that the officers did little to try to soothe Mr. Prude as he grew increasingly frantic after his arrest. The officers did not call for mental health professionals to respond to the scene. Nor did they offer him a blanket or put him in a police car for warmth, though he had stripped off his clothes and was naked.
The officers instead ordered him to lie on his stomach, and he complied, according to body camera footage and police reports. Pointing a Taser, one officer told Mr. Prude to “Chill out, man, don’t move, all right man?” before handcuffing him with relative ease at 3:16 a.m.
For three minutes, Mr. Prude made delusional comments as the officers stood around him. Then he sat upright and yelled, “Give me that mask, man!” and spat on the ground.
An officer responded by putting a so-called spit hood over Mr. Prude’s head from behind, which seemed to increase his panic.
“That would scare anybody, even someone in their right mind,” said Melanie Funchess, an official with a Rochester nonprofit that provides mental health services.
The footage showed that one officer pressed Mr. Prude’s hooded head down, apparently trying to get him to be less agitated, while a second pressed down on his back and a third pinned down his legs.
Shortly after, Mr. Prude went into cardiac arrest before he was taken away by an ambulance.
Four weeks after Mr. Prude’s March 30 death, a police internal investigation cleared the officers — and said nothing about whether they were properly trained in how to handle an emotionally disturbed person or someone suffering from mental illness.
The investigation concluded that the officers’ actions “appear to be appropriate and consistent with their training.” The officers, the investigation noted, had all recently been certified in “defensive tactics” and “ground control” techniques.
The seven officers involved in the Prude case were suspended last month, but only after the police body-camera footage was made public by Mr. Prude’s family.
The Rochester Police Department declined repeated requests to discuss the training that officers receive on mental health. The Rochester police chief at the time of the Prude encounter, La’Ron Singletary, has denied that police officers did anything wrong. He was dismissed last month by the city’s mayor, Lovely Warren.
Ms. Warren, a Democrat whose leadership has come scrutiny in recent weeks, was indicted on Oct. 2 on two unrelated felony campaign charges tied to when she was running for a second term in 2017.
Training manuals in Rochester do not specify under what circumstances officers are allowed to use a spit hood, a loose breathable fabric sack that can be placed over a person’s head to prevent biting or spitting.
The city and county do have mental health professionals on call whom the Rochester police can summon in such situations, but it is not mandatory for officers to do so.
“They were not dispatched,” said Willie Lightfoot Jr., chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee. “I don’t know why. I am looking for answers.”
The four lawyers representing the officers said they had followed their training precisely, using pinning techniques designed to avoid blocking airways and waiting for an ambulance as they had been taught to do in such cases. They added that mental health experts do not usually accompany officers on such calls.
The lawyers said that because their clients knew Mr. Prude was high on PCP, they relied on common physical maneuvers used to control people on drugs rather than softer methods like talking, which are often employed in mental hygiene calls.
The officers had also been taught that PCP can cause a body to overheat, so putting a blanket over Mr. Prude “would had done more harm than good,” said James Nobles, a lawyer for one of the officers.
The officers put a hood over Mr. Prude’s head to protect themselves from possible exposure to the coronavirus, but the hood’s mesh fabric should not have impeded Mr. Prude’s breathing.
“You can see through it, you can hear through it, you can breathe through it,” Mr. Nobles said, donning a so-called spit-sock at a news conference. “I can breathe better through this than I can through any mask that I’ve worn to prevent the coronavirus.”
The lawyers asked that the officers be reinstated. “We offer our sympathies to the family of Mr. Prude, but the officers involved in this incident did not cause his death,” Mr. Rich said.
Michael Mazzeo, president of the union representing about 700 Rochester officers, said that after viewing police footage of the arrest, he believed that the officers appear to have followed training protocols.
Mr. Mazzeo added that if training needs to change, “then change it. But don’t blame the officers.”
But Cedric Alexander, a former deputy police chief in Rochester, said the body camera footage demonstrated that the officers mishandled the arrest.
“Once they got him secured, and clearly he was having some crisis, they really should have gotten him off the ground, gotten him into that vehicle, and then taken him immediately into a mental health facility for evaluation,” Mr. Alexander said.
Mr. Alexander said he helped design a police training program for responding to the mentally ill in the early 2000s in Rochester. By 2006, the department also had about 45 volunteers who had undergone several hours of training in handling the mentally unstable.
The training centered on three principles: engage in soft-spoken conversation, de-escalate the situation and transport the person to a mental health facility.
Under the program, violent encounters between police and local residents in distress fell to “almost zero,” said Eric Weaver, a retired sergeant who supervised many of the mental health calls and now teaches similar techniques to other departments. He is the author of “Overcoming the Darkness,” about his own struggles with mental illness.
But Mr. Alexander, who is also a clinical psychologist, said the Rochester police placed less importance on the training after he and Mr. Weaver stepped down from the department in the mid-2000s.
“We left the playbook to continue this program,” he said. “It is clear that that never took place.”
Last month, after the footage of Mr. Prude’s arrest gained national attention, Rochester officials announced plans to form crisis intervention teams that would include clinicians and social workers and would respond to calls of people under mental stress and determine if the police are needed. Other cities have started using similar teams with some success, including Denver; Olympia, Washington; and Eugene, Oregon.
“We’re trying to work and move into a direction where what happened to the Prude family will never happen again,” Councilman Lightfoot said.
In New York City, 16,000 officers have gone through a four days of “crisis intervention training” since 2015, including role playing, lectures and conversations with individuals with mental illness who have had encounters with the police. (The training was suspended this year after the department faced pandemic-related budget cuts.)
Officials with the New York State’s Division of Criminal Justice Services said recruits in cities like Rochester are required to take a 20-hour course titled “the Fundamentals of Crisis Intervention,” where they learn how to minimize the use of force during mental health calls.
Phillip Atiba Goff, founder of the Center for Policing Equity, a think tank at Yale University, said that while training can help, most officers are ill-equipped to make the right decisions when confronted with mentally ill people.
“There is no way you can train police officers well enough that they can be frontline mental health workers, especially crisis mental health workers,” Mr. Goff said. “It’s very clear that if there had been a medical expert there, there also would’ve been different treatment and a different response.”
Troy Closson contributed reporting. Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.
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